Scottish Premier League

Lennon has winning 'addiction'

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Wed, 10 Apr 2013 17:59:00

Millwall defender Alan Dunne believes a post-match dressing down from manager Kenny Jackett will fire up his side for Wembley.

Jackett was furious after a stoppage-time goal condemned his side to a 2-1 defeat by Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday night.

The Lions will now head into Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against Wigan with a flea in their ear, and Dunne says they will be even more determined to perform.

"It might not do us any harm getting beaten and getting a rollicking," he said.

"Sometimes you get complacent. If we had won we might have got complacent going into Saturday. Getting beaten, we had a rollicking off the manager and it will fire a few of us up for Saturday. That's important."

Millwall were leading after Jimmy Abdou's second-minute goal but Miguel Llera levelled and Chris Maguire hit Wednesday's last-gasp winner to leave Jackett's side still in the relegation picture.

Dunne added: "The manager was disappointed with the two goals. Defensively we have been solid of late but they were sloppy goals.

"We have to learn from that and move on quickly. The Championship is out of the way for a week now so we can prepare for Wembley."

The Brazilian has made 208 appearances for the Reds since joining from Gremio in July 2007.

Lucas has had his injury problems over the past couple of seasons and was out from mid-August until December with a thigh problem.

It is less than two years since the 26-year-old last signed an improved contract but the midfielder took little persuading to agree a new deal.

"It's another long-term contract that I have signed, but it was the same feeling as when I first came here," he told Liverpool's official website.

"I am really delighted to have the opportunity to play for this club.

"It's where I think I belong and where I wanted to stay, so I am very happy and looking forward to a few more years here.

"It was an easy decision because after the long period of my career I have had here I would like to give the best of my time to this club.

"It was not a difficult decision to make and I am really looking forward to what will hopefully be a few more years with a lot of success."

Managing director Ian Ayre said the new contract was just reward for the Brazilian's commitment, as well as being important for manager Brendan Rodgers' long-term planning.

"It's fantastic. He has been such a great servant to the club and I think during the period he went through with his two injuries, he put so much work into it and the club supported him through it," he said.

"He just goes from strength to strength. We said throughout last summer and January, we wanted to keep our best, experienced players, and this is another great example of that.

"The manager has said several times that as well as having a great, young squad, it's important we have experience and it's important we have characters. People like Lucas fit that.

"He'll tell you he's still very young but in footballing terms he's experienced and a big part of the team."

In the last 10 months Luis Suarez, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Brad Jones, Raheem Sterling, Suso, Jonjo Shelvey, Martin Kelly and Andre Wisdom have all signed new deals with another in the pipeline for captain Steven Gerrard.

The clubs currently sitting respectively in 17th and 15th places in the table will now meet at the Stadium of Light on Monday, May 6 (kick-off 8pm).

Stoke were originally scheduled to play on Wearside on the previous Saturday afternoon.

The Black Cats head into this Sunday's derby trip to Newcastle only clear of the relegation zone on goal difference and without a win in nine games.

The Potters, who entertain champions-elect Manchester United the same day, are just three points better off and have tasted victory once in their last 13 league outings.

The Magpies head into Thursday night's quarter-final, second leg clash with Benfica trailing 3-1 after last week's trip to Lisbon, knowing a side which has not lost in 31 games in all competitions stands between them and their dreams of a place in the last four.

Only star-studded Barca have beaten Jorge Jesus' men by two clear goals this season, winning 2-0 in the Champions League at the Estadio da Luz in October three weeks before Spartak Moscow inflicted their last defeat.

But that is exactly what Newcastle will have to do at St James' Park if they are to reach the semi-finals, and while Pardew knows that will be a tall order, he is confident they can defy the odds.

He said: "There's only one team which has beaten them by two clear goals, and that's Barcelona, so that's the size of the task, so we are under no illusions there.

"This is a Champions League team, really, and if it weren't for Celtic's fantastic performance in the group, they could have been competing tonight in the Champions League.

"That's the quality we are up against. I don't think there are going to be many better sides that have played here than Benfica.

"They have a slightly different style to a Premier League team. They have some fantastic technical players - Gaitan, Rodrigo, Cardozo and Lima.

"They have a real, real threat on the counter-attack, and the game could get away from us, it could easily get away from us, so we have got to be very much on our guard that we approach it in the right manner, give ourselves a chance and try to get us to the end of the game in a position where we can get it back.

"I would still feel confident two goals down with 10 minutes to go, the way that we are and the potential we have in the group, and the way I can affect it off the bench."

In that respect, Pardew may have a joker in his pack with the surprise return of France international Hatem Ben Arfa from injury.

The 51-year-old had effectively ruled out the 26-year-old for the remainder of the campaign with the hamstring injury he aggravated in the 0-0 draw with Anzhi Makhachkala in Moscow on March 7.

However, he has returned to training and is likely to be used as an impact substitute.

Pardew said: "Hatem Ben Arfa has made an unbelievable recovery - he will be involved tomorrow.

"I am sure if he is needed, he will be somebody who can turn the game, so I have assets that have come to me maybe just in time."

Pardew's joy at Ben Arfa's return was tempered by the loss of central defender Steven Taylor, who has joined skipper Fabricio Coloccini on the sidelines with a knee problem suffered in training earlier today, although with Sunday's derby clash with Sunderland looming, he is hopeful of a swift recovery.

The manager said: "We don't think it's too serious, but he is certainly not going to be involved tomorrow."

Newcastle have made something of a habit in recent weeks of winning games at the death with Papiss Cisse contributing late decisive strikes against Stoke, Anzhi and at the weekend, Fulham.

Cisse said: "I tell myself as long as the referee hasn't blown his whistle, the game isn't over.

"I'm an attacker, that's my job - that's what I always tell myself. I have to be ready to score at any moment, so there's always a chance until the whistle goes that I can score."

Pardew will take another winner from the Senegal international whenever it arrives, but admits he has been urging his leading scorer not to leave it so late.

He said with a smile: "I keep telling Papiss to try to score before the 92nd minute - it's becoming ridiculous.

"He's a special goalscorer and a big threat to Benfica, I thought, in the first leg, and he will be tomorrow too."

Central defender Reid, sidelined with a back problem since suffering a spasm in the recent win over Leyton Orient, returned to full training this week.

"Paul Reid has trained with us and we did a double session on Tuesday and he has done it all, so that shows a really good sign for us that he could be available this Saturday," Iron manager Brian Laws told the club's official website.

Goalkeeper Sam Slocombe, who has missed the last six games due to a torn thigh muscle, is also close to a return to action.

Laws added: "Sam is in with us now and he has trained with us in the last couple of days.

"He has done a huge amount of kicking and we were waiting to see if there had been any reaction."

Laws drafted in Norwegian goalkeeper Erik Johansen on loan from Manchester City as cover for Slocombe.

And Vennegoor of Hesselink believes even the absence of Rangers from the SPL cannot weaken Lennon's "addiction".

The Parkhead club's traditional rivals re-emerged in the Third Division at the start of the season after their descent into administration and liquidation.

Without the usual championship challenge from Ibrox, Celtic have coasted through the league campaign with the occasional bump and are 15 points clear of Motherwell with five games remaining.

Lennon's side, who also reached the last-16 of the Champions League, are likely to clinch the title when they host Inverness in the first game of the post-split fixtures, and might even have claimed the trophy before then if the Steelmen slip up at Dundee United two days earlier.

Speaking in Glasgow ahead of Celtic's Scottish Cup semi-final clash with Dundee United on Sunday, Vennegoor of Hesselink, who won two SPL titles, a Scottish Cup and a League Cup in his three years at Parkhead between 2006 and 2009, spoke about his former team-mate Lennon's desire to win, regardless of circumstances.

"If you look how he (Lennon) did in the Champions League and in the league, he is doing his job really well," the former Holland international said.

"Sometimes you have slip-ups but they are 15 points clear so that says enough.

"I know Lenny a little bit and he will want to win the cup and get the double.

"As a footballer, there is a competitiveness, you want to win.

"It is like an addiction and if you win prizes you want to do it over and over.

"I think that is in the mind of Lenny and hopefully in the minds of a lot of players."

Vennegoor of Hesselink, however, admits the SPL table looks unrecognisable this season without Rangers and with Inverness and Ross County in the top six and Hibernian, Hearts and Aberdeen in the bottom six.

"I was reading the paper this morning and normally the table has Celtic, Rangers, Hearts, Hibs and now it is the other way round," said the Dutchman who, since retiring as a player last year, has occupied himself with occasional scouting and media work.

"It is massive difference from only three or four years ago and also a bit of a shame because you want a good league with a lot of competitiveness.

"I was an analyst on the Celtic versus Inverness game in February and Inverness were pushing for second place. Celtic played their fringe players and Inverness were played off the park.

"That's not to talk badly about Inverness but it is a shame. As a footballer, you want to win it by a mile but sometimes it is also about the competitiveness, that is why fans come to the stadium.

"As a fan you always want to win but sometimes the nicest game is a last-minute winner so it is a shame that is not really there.

"The semi-final is really important because that is where they can get their satisfaction from too, getting the double and getting that on your CV.

"I played football for 18 years and I was quite lucky to win some prizes but only won two doubles in my career."

Vennegoor of Hesselink revealed his indelible Celtic links mean he has been quizzed about the demise of Rangers back in his homeland.

He said: "It is a big issue. People refer to me as a Celtic player, not a PSV or Twente player, so my time here had a big impact.

"They (people in Holland) know that Rangers went down and the Old Firm is a match that you miss.

"Everybody in Europe or maybe even the world talked about the derby and it's not there.

"I think it is painful because as a footballer you want those intensity games but it is not there and that is a shame."

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