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Football: Lennon targets Champions League cash boost

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Celtic manager Neil Lennon saw his side wrap up their 44th Scottish title but admitted solid Champions League progress is now required to boost the coffers at Parkhead.

Lennon believes a successful European campaign is essential to make up for the revenue lost from derby matches against Rangers.

"I think there was more emphasis on the European campaign this season obviously, for financial reasons more than anything else," said Lennon whose side made the last-16 this season, defeating Barcelona in the group stages before losing to Juventus in the knockout rounds.

"The most pressure I felt this season was the two qualifiers against Helsingborg. It was tough as it came so early in our season but to get over the line in that I think was pivotal to the short-term future of what we want to do here.

"I never predict what is ahead of us in football. We are in a good financial position with the Champions League money and what we would like again is to have another successful qualification campaign and get into the group stages.

"That would be pretty important as it was this year. Whether we dominate domestic football I don't know as you never know what is around the corner in the game.

"But we've been patient over the years and the board have been prudent. They took a lot of criticism for that but we're reaping the benefits of that now."

The Hoops wrapped up the championship with a comprehensive 4-1 win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Parkhead on Sunday to leave them 15 points clear of Motherwell with four matches remaining.

It keeps Lennon's side on course to clinch a domestic double if they can defeat Hibernian in next month's Scottish Cup final.

With Rangers languishing in the Third Division following the Ibrox club's liquidation last summer Celtic had been the red-hot favourites to romp to the SPL title.

However, they didn't have it all their own way with the Glasgow giants having lost six and drawn six so far and are fated to secure their lowest ever points tally in Lennon's three full seasons in charge.

But Lennon was full of praise for his players.

"I'm proud of the players for the way they've played this season. Today, particularly in the second half was indicative of the way that we've played, not just this season, but in the three years I've been in charge," the Celtic manager said.

"When they really put their minds to it they can show what a great team they are."

He added: "During the 90s the club was starved of success. Martin O'Neill came in here and revolutionised what was going on.

"He brought a winning mentality to the club and Gordon Strachan took that on. I think now it's the eighth championship in 13 years so the club is in rude health now.

"We've developed a domination of the championship over the years now which is fantastic."

The Celtic manager has now won two titles as a manager to go with the five he claimed as a midfielder with the club.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130421/football-lennon-targets-champions-league-cash-boost