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Celtic chief Peter Lawwell publicly backs under-fire Neil Lennon

The Hoops manager came under increasing pressure following the 2-0 Betfred Cup defeat to Ross County on Sunday.

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell has given his backing to under-fire boss Neil Lennon.

The Hoops manager came under increasing pressure following the 2-0 Betfred Cup defeat to Ross County on Sunday which saw hundreds of fans turn up at Parkhead to demand the removal of the Northern Irishman, amid scenes of chaos as police tried to keep order.

The Hoops have won just two of their last 10 matches in all competitions and sit 11 points behind Rangers at the top of the Premiership with two games in hand as they bid for their 10th-successive title.

Celtic travel to Italy this week for a Europa League dead rubber against AC Milan on Thursday night and Lennon will be in the technical area at San Siro.

In a statement released on the club website, Lawwell said: "Like all those with Celtic's best interests at heart, everyone at the club is feeling the same hurt, disappointment and frustration following the team's recent results.

"We are accustomed to winning and, of course, our objective will always be for that to continue. There is no complacency whatsoever.

"Neil, the players and backroom staff, who have already done so much for the club, share in all of that. They have never been more determined to succeed.

"Having enjoyed such sustained, unprecedented success, we now need strength in adversity."

Lawwell added: "We know that many Celtic supporters share very honest and real concerns and they are being heard by the club.

"Every decision taken, both on and off the park, is with the club's best interests at heart.

"This is not about any individual, but about Celtic Football Club as a collective. Together we have faced unique difficulties in the early part of the season.

"While some of these were beyond our control, of course we recognise we must improve. There is a long way to go and everyone at the club is ready for the challenge."

Lawwell reminded fans what is at stake when they take on Championship side Hearts in the William Hill Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park on December 20.

He said: "Later this month, Celtic will attempt what no other club in the world has achieved – a quadruple treble in domestic competitions.

"We can best prepare for that and for our other remaining competitions this season by moving forward together, with the sole aim of achieving continued success for the club."

Former Celtic striker Scott McDonald believes the Hoops' "car crash" season can be traced back to Lennon's post-Champions League exit rant.

McDonald, who played for Celtic between 2007 and 2010, insisted "alarm bells" started to ring in the aftermath of Celtic's 2-1 home defeat by Hungarian outfit Ferencvaros in their Champions League qualifier at Parkhead in August, when Lennon revealed players wanted to leave.

Lennon said at the time: "There are some players who may want to leave. They have made inroads into that in the last six months or so. So if they don't want to be here, we have to do something about it.

"If they are making waves to leave the club, they are obviously not committed.

"We want players committed to the club. I'm not going to go into it, but I'm putting it out there because it has been bugging me for a long, long time."

McDonald, 37, back in his native Australia where he plays for Brisbane Roar, was speaking on the Celtic Huddle podcast and said: "It's been pretty much a car crash ever since they didn't qualify for the Champions League.

"I will go back to that and pinpoint that as a serious turning point in terms of what Neil said in his press conference after the game.

"He was more or less calling the players out and I don't think a lot of those players were ready for that, or appreciated it or accepted it and I feel from that day on, he lost quite a lot of them in that changing room."

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Sunday's key events

· Wave conditions permitting, surfing will make its Olympic debut (11pm-8.20am)

· Another debutant sport at this Olympics, most eyes will be on American Nyjah Huston in the men's street contest as he looks to add Olympic gold to his four world titles and 12 X-Games golds. (12.30am-5am)

· History beckons for Jade Jones as she looks to become a three-time Olympic champion - something never done before in the sport prior to these Games (2am-1.45pm)
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