Neil Lennon has challenged Aiden McGeady to turn on the magic in tonight’s final derby match of the season.
McGeady hasn’t had much joy against Rangers over the last two years under Gordon Strachan and Tony Mowbray and was taunted by Nacho Novo on a video on the official Rangers website during the club’s title celebrations.
Lennon understands the mindset of his former team-mate better than anyone and knows that an on-form McGeady can help deliver the win that will make his case to become permanent boss irresistible.
“I thought that Aiden was sloppy in the first half,” the caretaker boss admitted after the win over Motherwell. “But he was excellent in the second half.
“Maybe there was a wee bit of flatness about the occasion for him but I think that he’ll be right up for it on Tuesday. I think that he’s due a big performance against Rangers.
“I want him to put in a big performance, not for me or for the fans, but for himself. He deserves a big performance.
“That’s not throwing down the gauntlet, I just want to coax it out of him. It’s not that he’s not trying or anything like that.
“The kid is a magnificent professional, he’s fantastic in training and wants to get better all the time. I just think he deserves a big performance to befit his talent.”
Lennon added: “We need to step it up on Tuesday, we need to tighten things up against a team of the quality of Rangers who can punish you.
“The players have to salvage something from the season, they have a good wee run going. They’re in a positive frame of mind and are a lot more confident about themselves as a group and individually. They are looking forward to the game.”
Tonight’s clash may be technically meaningless but with the manager’s job at Celtic still vacant the game has an extra dimension for Lennon.
“Players are defined by it, managers are defined by it,” he admitted in reference to the game against Rangers with the caretaker manager playing a blinder against constant speculation about his prospects.
Lennon hasn’t been shy to put himself forward for the job on a permanent basis but has stood back from making public demands of the Celtic board regarding the managers job.
Six SPL wins on the bounce has given his appointment momentum although the defeat to Ross County in the Scottish Cup stands out in the debit column.
Lennon will turn to Robbie Keane to shoot down Rangers with Saturday’s extra-time goal against Motherwell taking the striker to the top of the Celtic scoring charts with 15 for the season.
Keane was kept on the bench for an hour on Saturday before helping to secure the win with three goals coming in the last 12 minutes following McGeady’s opener.
As a player Lennon was never far from the action against Rangers with the two red cards of his Celtic career coming against the Ibrox side.
That same competitive attitude has been transferred into the dug-out with Lennon kicking every ball and contesting every decision from the side-lines.
Managing Celtic against Rangers with his job prospects on the line will be an incredible challenge for the former Celtic skipper who wears his heart on his sleeve in every match.
“Will I change? No, not at all,” Lennon admitted. “You have to be consistent and can’t just change for one game.
“It is a bit unfair to say this match will decide if I get the job. I should be judged over the piece but I know this is probably a job interview.
“Old Firm games define your reputation because fans will always hark back to them. It will be my biggest game and it will be a cup final sort of atmosphere.
“For a lot of the players it will be their last game of the season – possibly their last for the club. So I’d like to think they will put on a show.”