Why Neil Lennon will be out on his own in Scottish game if Celtic bank quadruple treble
There is more at stake on Sunday than even a global-first quadruple treble for Neil Lennon.
More than even the opportunity for him to ensure Celtic become the first team to win the oldest trophy in world football four times on the spin. If his side prevail against Hearts in the Scottish Cup final, Lennon will become the first man in the annals of the game to snare a treble as both player and manager.
Although the Parkhead club may have made it seem otherwise with their fantastical glory-run of honours since 2016, trebles have been relatively scarce in the three-quarters of a century since the League Cup was added to the top-flight championship and Scottish Cup as the major trophies contested each season. There have been 13 in total, all of them divided up between the game’s Glasgow leviathans; Rangers boasting seven and Celtic looking to match that total at Hampden on Sunday.
One of the legacy issues that has counted against Lennon as his own support have turned on him this season, is his failure to achieve a clean sweep across his first spell as Celtic manager, from 2010 to 2014. The fact there was no top flight Rangers for the latter two years of that tenure - the result of the Ibrox club’s 2012 liquidation - created an expectation he would hoover up every slice of silverware. Yet, as both Glasgow teams have demonstrated with their recent League Cup losses, it is often other clubs who block their way to total domination...as none were able to do in the treble treble run Lennon completed following his return to the helm after Brendan Rodgers’ flit to Leicester City in February 2019.
Lennon is now looking to do his personal double treble - following on from being a playing member of Martin O’Neill’s all-conquering Celtic team of 2000-01 - and so complete a set that has only just eluded some of Scottish football’s most stellar figures.
Into that bracket come Jock Stein, John Greig and Billy McNeill. Stein captained Celtic to a league and Scottish Cup double in 1953-54, but the club didn’t make it out of their League Cup section at the start of that campaign, so the treble was never on. It was always on when he took the Celtic helm for the glittering period covering the 1960s and 1970s. And as well as the European Cup in 1967, that season also brought up the club’s first domestic clean sweep, their second arriving two years later.
Greig was a pivot for Rangers in their treble-winning seasons of 1963-64 (their second, after the Ibrox club claimed Scotland’s first treble in 1948-49), 1975-76 and 1977-78. He swapped the pitch for the dug-out in May 1978 and came within one game of a treble in his first season as a manager - Celtic’s famous 4-2 derby win in May 1979 preventing Greig adding the title to the two cups won across that campaign.
Meanwhile, McNeill, Stein’s captain for the treble successes of 1966-67 and 1968-69, couldn’t replicate such feats as Celtic manager in the 1980s. He came mighty close, though, with a League and Scottish Cup double in the club’s centenary season in 1987-88. Lennon this weekend, then, has the opportunity to become a real one-off in the Scottish game.
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