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BACK PAGE BULLETIN: ‘HAMILTON IS OUR PRIORITY,’ INSISTS LENNON, ‘FULLY FOCUSED ON ABERDEEN,’ SAYS GERRARD, HEARTS IN BOSS CASH WRANGLE

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NEIL LENNON has ordered his Celtic players: Forget the Cup Final!

The holders are due to take on Rangers in the Betfred silverware shoot-out at Hampden on Sunday, but the Hoops boss is more focused on tomorrow night’s Premiership meeting with Hamilton Accies at Parkhead.

Asked if he had any concerns about the game being overshadowed by the intriguing encounter against Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox outfit at the national stadium, Lennon told Sky Sports News: “Well, as far as we’re concerned, it won’t and we have made that clear to the players yesterday and today.

“The league is the priority and the season doesn’t end on Sunday whether we win the Cup or not.

“We’ve got a lot of games between now and the end of December. So, Hamilton is our priority, it’s our most important game and we will go strong. And then our aim is to win the game as best we can.”

 

Lennon saw his team beat Ross County 4-1 to notch their TENTH successive victory and said: “It is fantastic consistency, fantastic quality of football, fantastic hunger and desire from the players in terms of wanting to win the game and win them well.

“It was a really powerful performance again on Sunday off the back of a fantastic performance against Rennes.

“Tomorrow provides another stiff challenge. Hamilton miraculously find a way to maintain Premiership standards every year and they’ve got a cute manager there in Brian Rice, he’s quite smart, quite experienced.

“But we’re not taking the game for granted at all and we’re not thinking about picking the team for Wednesday with Sunday in mind.

“We are picking the team to win the game and take it from there.”

The Irishman confirmed Odsonne Edouard will miss his third successive game through injury while it is too early to talk about a Mohamed Elyounoussi return.

Greg Taylor is likely to continue at left-back with doubt remaining over the fitness of Boli Bolingoli and Jonny Hayes.

French midfield ace Olivier Ntcham, who sat out the romp in the Highlands with a knock, is likely to start.

STEVEN GERRARD has BANNED his players from even discussing the Betfred League Cup Final against Celtic as he prepares his Rangers team for the visit to Pittodrie to face Aberdeen.

The Gers are hoping to bring their eight-year wait for a major trophy to an end at the weekend, but the Govan gaffer is wary of the side taking their eye off the ball against Derek McInnes’ men.

Gerrard, speaking to Sky Sports News, said: “We’re fully focused on Aberdeen and the challenge they pose. It will be a tough game up at Pittodrie.

“Certainly going up there during my time here we’ve had some good challenges and battles, so I expect the same.

“It’s 100 per cent focus on this game and we’ll worry about Sunday come Thursday.

“I am pleased we’ve got a game, though. For someone who’s been around Finals, sometimes you can have a week lead-in or even longer and that can be too long.

“I think it will actually help that we’ve got a focus and a challenge in front of us.

“Aberdeen have turned a corner in terms of their form and the atmosphere is always interesting up there. But for the players, this is the game they have got to enjoy.”

Gerrard added: “I’m always saying that when you represent this club, you have to do everything you can to stay in the team.

“That magnifies it a bit with the game at the weekend, but the players have only got to focus on the job I’m asking them to do against Aberdeen.

“It’s not wise to think about the weekend. We need to go full-throttle from the kick-off and do everything we can over the 90 minutes.”

DANIEL STENDEL will be confirmed as Craig Levein’s successor as Hearts boss as soon as a compensation wrangle with former club Barnsley is settled.

The German is understood to have agreed terms with club owner Ann Budgemade and is just waiting for the green light to take over at the Edinburgh club.

However, the English Championship outfit are now insisting they are due compensation from the Tynecastle side having sacked Stendel in October.

Co-chairman Paul Conway expects the Tykes to be paid when their axed gaffer takes another job, and says they have written to Hearts informing them of this but have yet to receive a response.

Stendel’s contract at Oakwell was due to run until the end of this season, so any figure due is not expected be outwith Hearts’ financial resources.

Budge is eager to get everything finalised and announced as soon as possible, but tomorrow night’s home match against Livingston looks likely to be Austin MacPhee ’s last in temporary charge.

He has overseen four games and lost three, two of those defeats coming against Rangers, one in the Betfred League Cup semi-final and the other in the Premiership on Sunday when they were thrashed 5-0.

 

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Editor

Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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