Neil Lennon ended a turbulent first full season in charge of Celtic as a winner then got overwhelming backing from his players to continue as manager.
The Northern Irishman led his team to Scottish Cup glory at Hampden on Saturday thanks to a 3-0 victory over Motherwell, and with his first trophy as a boss in the bag, he will sit down with the Parkhead board to discuss his future.
Off the field, Lennon has had a nightmare time this term, with bullets and parcel bombs sent to him through the post, death threats made and an alleged assault by a spectator during a game at Tynecastle.
Just after kick-off at the national stadium, an aeroplane flew overhead trailing a banner with the words “In Lennon We Trust” and it appears the directors are about to put their faith in him by improving upon his current six-month rolling contract.
Celtic’s majority shareholder, Dermot Desmond, has publicly stated he wants the Hoops boss to remain at the club “for a very long time.”
That was music to the ears of the players.
“He is just an amazing person and coach,” said central defender Daniel Majstorovic. “It is difficult to really understand what has happened to him when it has nothing to do with football. It is strange.Amazing”The way he has handled it all is amazing and I am just very happy for him.
“He really deserves this (cup) and he is the man for this job. He knows the club and the mentality.
“In fact, he is just right.”
Mark Wilson, whose shot was deflected in by Motherwell captain Stephen Craigan for the second goal, added, “It would be good from a player’s point of view to get some clarity on it.
“I am sure it would be nice for him to know he has a few years at it yet.
“He told us all that it was a fantastic day and that is what we are at Celtic for to win trophies.
“For next season the league is the priority, and that is what we will be trying to get with hopefully the gaffer still in charge.”
The man who lifted the cup, Celtic skipper Scott Brown, said, “All the players have a close relationship with the manager.
“He has done a lot for us and means a lot to us. So it was great to be able to give something back.”
Lennon himself, whose name was chanted at regular intervals by the Celtic fans, welcomed Desmond’s declaration.Pleased”I am pleased,” he said. “It is great to hear, although he has not said that to me yet.
“He has been a great supporter. This time last year, after Ross County, he was on the phone to me and gave me great encouragement.
“The support I have had from behind the scenes has been fantastic and we will sit down hopefully in the next week or two and see where we go from here.
“I love the job, I love the challenge that lies ahead. I have had great backing from the board in general.
“There is a conflict of feelings because we didn’t win the league, but there is a lot of satisfaction from the season overall.
“It’s nice to put a trophy in the cabinet, and hopefully we can build on that.”
Majstorovic, who was lucky to stay on the park his early booking for a terrible tackle on Keith Lasley could easily have been a straight red, then it should have been followed by another caution for a clear handball was certainly in upbeat mood after collecting his first medal as a Hoops player.
“That was just amazing,” said the giant Swede. “It is something you want to feel as a player.
“We were all disappointed with the way we lost the league, but we came back and had a good week after that last game.
“We saw the possibility of winning a trophy and we grabbed it. I think this victory will set us up for next season. Of course you need to look forward.
“You can’t look back because what’s happened had happened and you can’t change it.
“What this team has achieved in just one year together has been quite amazing.
“The target has been set and that means going for the title.
“At big clubs you want to win championships and this is just the start for us.”BlushMajstorovic somehow did not blush when asked if he was fortunate to stay on the park.
“Not really. I obviously didn’t want to take the ball and that’s what I think the referee saw as well,” he claimed.
“I was more worried about taking a yellow card so early in the game because as a defender you need to be careful.”
Looking ahead to the 2011-12 campaign was something striker Gary Hooper was keen to do, with the Englishman aware of the extra money likely to be available to their Old Firm rivals.
“Rangers are going to spend because they have new owners, but we will come back stronger, too,” said Hooper.
“There will be more players coming in to strengthen the squad and the players already here will have another pre-season under their belts.”
After a foul-ridden first half-hour, Celtic’s South Korean midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng lit up the stadium on 32 minutes with a wonder strike that sailed past Well keeper Darren Randolph to open the scoring.
The Fir Park men came within a whisker of equalising just four minutes later, when Gavin Gunning unleashed a vicious shot that crashed against the bar before rebounding to safety.
There followed two remarkable handball incidents that were both missed by toiling referee Calum Murray, who had a dreadful first half.
First, on 37 minutes, Majstorovic’s outstretched arm struck the ball while it was in the air a foul was given to Well but, remarkably, it was not accompanied by a second booking.BlunderThat blunder was followed by an even more blatant offence by Well skipper Craigan, who swiped the ball away with his hand as he lay on the ground just outside his own box.
Match official Murray regained some composure in the second period, and there was little doubt over who the cup winners were going to be when Wilson’s shot was deflected in to put Celtic two clear on 76 minutes.
A Charlie Mulgrew rocket free-kick wrapped things up for the Parkhead side with two minutes to go and the engraver began chiselling their name on to the old trophy.
Motherwell’s danger men the likes of Jamie Murphy, Chris Humphrey and John Sutton didn’t threaten their opponents nearly enough and they were comfortably beaten in the end.
“We knew all along that we would have to be at our best and I don’t think we were at our best but you can’t take away from the lads’ spirit, endeavour and commitment,” said their manager Stuart McCall.
“Celtic were by far the better side, but the couple of bits of luck that we needed just didn’t go our way.
“There are a lot of disappointed players in there because we prepared really well, but our top players maybe just weren’t on top of their game but it was a good spirited effort by them.
“There is nothing I can say to the lads that is going to take away the pain and disappointment, but they should be proud of their achievements and what they have done this season.”