Stuart Kettlewell was part of a Ross County side which put a serious dent in Neil Lennon’s case for the Celtic job, but the Ross County co-manager feels the Parkhead club’s faith has long been rewarded.
Lennon took interim charge of the Hoops following the sacking of Tony Mowbray in 2010, and was in the dugout when the Hoops were famously defeated by then First Division County in a Scottish Cup semi final at Hampden Park.
Despite the loss the Hoops board opted to hand Lennon the job permanently, with the Northern Irishman going on to enjoy a successful four-year stint before returning for a second spell last season.
Kettlewell is pleased the Staggies’ finest hour did not spell the end of Lennon’s short-lived reign, and he said: “I remember driving back from Hampden Park with my parents and there was a phone-in.
“Celtic fans were baying for blood. They were so disgruntled about what had happened. He was the wrong man for the job. He should never have been put in charge. I heard all these things.
“I’m a real, strong believer that it is so easy to sit there and cast aspersions, but now looking at it, I genuinely believe the powers that be at Celtic believe they’ve made the correct call.
“What a strength of character and personality to come out the other end of a situation where Ross County, then a First Division club, beat Celtic 2-0 at Hampden in a semi-final.
“It was obviously one of the greatest occasions for this football club, but when you look at it on the flip-side, one of the low points for Celtic.
“For Neil Lennon to come out the other end, it probably just demonstrates how his character as a player has been taken into coaching and management. I’ve got the utmost respect for that.”
Kettlewell is urging his players to relish the Parkhead occasion today, adding: “When you are used to playing in the lower reaches of Scottish football, for me as a player it was always a dream to go and play at the big stadiums in the Premiership.
“You should always appreciate what’s there. I used to play at Hampden every second week when I was at Queen’s Park.
“I don’t think you should ever see this as a chore or have any fear.”
County will be without on-loan Hoops midfielder Ewan Henderson who is ineligible against his parent club, with Kettlewell adding: “It’s a chance for someone else to come in and play. It is quite a competitive area of the pitch for us.
“Ross Draper comes back in having got himself back to full fitness and he stre3ngthens that area of the pitch.
“We have got options and the job for us is just to make sure we get the combinations right.
“There will be tweaks and changes.”