Final Countdown

21 May 2011 10:22
New experiences for a number of players and managers as the Hampden cup final awaits. Neil Lennon is looking forward to a "special moment" when he walks out onto the Hampden pitch with his Celtic side for the Scottish Cup final against Motherwell. It will be the first time for both managers to be on the pitch ahead of the final as managers. Stuart McCall and Lennon have both experience of finals as players but their new responsibilities mean they will not be stripped for action today. Lennon had a chance to lead out his team for a final before but he was serving a touchline ban for the Co-operative Insurance Cup final against Rangers in March and had to sit in the stand as his side lost 2-1 after extra-time.  Asked how much he was looking forward to walking out along with Motherwell manager McCall today, Lennon joked: "It will make a pleasant change. It will be a precious moment in my time here as a player, coach and now manager. The cup final is a very special occasion, and we haven't been there for a few years. It will be a nice moment for me but it will not detract away from concentrating on what we have to do. We haven't been to the final since 2007. It's an important competition for the players and supporters and the backroom staff as well. I would be disappointed (if we end up with nothing). We have played very well this season and our recent form is very good. There is disappointment that we have not won the title but we have a cup to win and it's a game we are all looking forward to it. We made a big improvement, scored a lot of goals, tidied up defensively and the midfield is as good as we have had for a long, long time."  Inevitably, with Lennon in front of the microphones, the cup final press conference was dominated by questions about his future. In the past he has expressed his displeasure about being asked about event unrelated to the situation in hand. He was measured in his replies when asked, in various ways, whether his current six-month rolling contract would be improved and/or extended and whether the result against Motherwell would make a difference to the board's decision. He said: "I don't know if that decision has been made or if it will have that effect on it one way or the other. It will be a decision that the board will discuss with me or among themselves. I am on a six-month rolling contract and until I'm told otherwise I will be the manager. I am happy with that (current deal), yes. Whether the board wants to offer me an extension to that or a new contract, I have no idea. But again we will talk about that next week."  Meanwhile, few Motherwell players know what a Scottish Cup final appearance means to the club more than Keith Lasley but even he has been inspired this week by tales of former glory. Lasley made the first of his 261 Motherwell appearances in 2000 after joining the club as a teenager two years earlier. The midfielder has been surrounded by images of the last team to win the Scottish Cup 20 years ago, which decorate the walls around Fir Park. He has talked many times to fans and players in that team which has underlined the importance of this year's Hampden game as Motherwell search for only the fifth major trophy of their 125-year history. Lasley said: "I don't know about becoming heroes and legends but the '91 squad is inspirational. That's what we have got to aspire to - to win trophies for Motherwell. Obviously it doesn't happen every year but we have got the opportunity this year and hopefully it's an opportunity we can take. We were mixing with the fans last weekend at the end-of-season events and to hear these people's stories about going to games in the past and being there when they won the cup, when you hear these stories it definitely does inspire you to emulate that."  Motherwell's only final since the 4-3 win over Dundee United came in 2005 in the League Cup, but Lasley missed the 5-1 defeat by Rangers as it came in the middle of his two-year period with Plymouth. Lasley has witnessed incredible ups and downs over his years with the club, from administration, the death of captain Phil O'Donnell, third-place finishes in the league to three consecutive European campaigns. Lasley's career at Fir Park looked to be on it's last legs less than 18 months ago when former manager Jim Gannon made it clear he was not part of his plans. But Gannon was sacked days before the start of the January transfer window and now Stuart McCall have restored him to the heart of the midfield. He said: "European games have been great but this is my first final. It's far above everything I have played in."


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