Lennon backs Celtic Park

  • Last Updated: February 24 2014, 19:16 GMT

Neil Lennon believes Celtic Park would be the ideal venue for Scotland's home European Championship qualifier against the Republic of Ireland - despite many of the visiting squad's familiarity with the venue.

Parkhead: Could host Scotland v Republic of Ireland
Parkhead: Could host Scotland v Republic of Ireland

Hampden could be unavailable for Scotland's game against the Irish on November 14 as work to reopen the stadium following its temporary redevelopment for the Commonwealth Games will not be finished until late in the year.

Celtic Park and Ibrox are the only serious contenders to host the game with the 60,000 capacity at Parkhead - 10,000 more than Rangers' stadium - giving it the edge for a match that is sure to be a sell-out.

The stadium is the former workplace of Irish management team Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane and players such as Robbie Keane, Aiden McGeady and Daryl Murphy, while the squad contains current Hoops striker Anthony Stokes.

However, Lennon feels that familiarity will be cancelled out by the fact that O'Neill's replacement as Celtic boss, Gordon Strachan, has a number of Hoops players in his squad.

When asked if staging the game at Parkhead might help the Republic of Ireland, the Celtic manager said: "It may do but it will be the same for Gordon and the Celtic boys he has.

"For me, the atmosphere might be better because it is a fantastic arena, with the fans closer to the pitch, which always helps the electricity in the stadium."

Lennon played under both of the managers and feels the match-up will be an intriguing contest.

"Knowing the both of them, they are very canny and will know how to approach the game in the right way," he said.

"But it sets up a fascinating pair of games. Both sides will feel they have a fighting chance.

"If it is at Celtic Park it will be familiar surroundings for both of them.

"It is an intriguing match-up between two superb managers. I don't think there is much between either squad in terms of quality."

The games could be the highlight of the group for both sets of fans but there is much to whet the appetite with Germany, Poland, Georgia and international newcomers Gibraltar all in the group.

And Scotland coach Stuart McCall feels there is a real excitement about the national team after winning three of their last four World Cup qualifiers.

McCall said: "There are some exciting games for the fans and players to look forward to. If you look at the likes of England's group, there is not a lot of excitement that jumps out of you as an England supporter.

"But to open the campaign against Germany... it will be tough but something to look forward to, and the double header against the Republic of Ireland will be terrific as well."

The Motherwell manager added: "The buzz is back. When Gordon, Mark (McGhee) and myself came in, we were struggling to qualify but still felt we could. Then we had a downer against Wales in a snowstorm at Hampden.

"Since then we have been getting better but we just wanted the campaign to finish because we couldn't qualify, and to get our teeth into the next one.

"There is excitement, there is always optimism with all supporters when draws are made, but hopefully we can make an impression this time out."

Ally McCoist, a former Scotland striker and coach, feels the draw gives Strachan's side a real chance of qualifying.

The Rangers boss said: "When Walter (Smith) was in charge, we had a section with the World Cup winners and the runners-up with Italy and France.

"But outside the Germans and Gibraltar, all the sides are more than capable of providing some shocks along the way and I'm hopeful that will benefit us."

The top two teams qualify and third place guarantees a play-off place.


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