Victory in the Scottish Cup final could turn Celtic's season around

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Celtic supporters are not used to this. The bitter feelings of defeat and inadequacy are not ones which come readily to the pilgrims of Parkhead, but this season so far has represented a downturn in the team's usual from – dominance dissolving to make way for an intense meekness, which has pervaded the club's efforts across all competitions.

This slump was compounded by a humiliating League Cup exit to Ross County recently. The 2-0 scoreline summed up all that has gone wrong for manager Neil Lennon and his side this season – the sense that no matter what the Northern Irishman and his team tries, they are swimming vainly against a tide.

It's no surprise that the pressure has been building on Lennon, with the club trailing Rangers by 11 points in the Scottish Premiership table. After all, success is all that's acceptable at Celtic.

"There is an expectation at this club, there's a demand for excellence and there's a demand for wins – I am fully aware of that," Lennon said. "I am not standing here like the happy clapper saying everything's OK, because it's not. But we'll do everything we can – if I've still got the opportunity to do that – to turn things around."

Luckily for Lennon, there is an approaching opportunity to help bring the feel-good factor back to Celtic Park, as the Hoops take on Heart of Midlothian in the Scottish Cup Final on December 20th. Celtic will be firm favourites in the Scottish FA Cup odds, given that Hearts are a Championship side and Lennon’s men are the reigning Premiership champions.

If he can steer the team to victory at Hampden Park, then perhaps the pressure on the Celtic boss will be relieved slightly for the time being. Trophies are a great remedy for all ailments in football, and given that Celtic fans subsist on silverware, delivering another Scottish Cup will help to alleviate some of the growing anger among the fanbase. This anger boiled over after the Ross County match, with fans gathering outside Celtic Park to make their displeasure known.

But such desperation for victory to turn the tide places huge pressure on Lennon and the players ahead of the final. Indeed, their opponents Hearts are in excellent form, having started their respective Championship campaign like a house on fire, and also having defeated arch rivals Hibernian in the cup semi-final.

Robbie Neilson's side were the victims of what many felt was a harsh way to determine relegation last season, as they dropped down to the Championship on a points-per-game decision. But they haven't wallowed in their misery and will fancy their chances of scoring a real coup by defeating Celtic at Hampden Park.

If Celtic were to lose, then it would undoubtedly be panic stations. Lagging behind in the league, their Europa League campaign already in tatters, and out of the League Cup – suddenly the rest of the season would have an unfamiliarly bleak outlook for Hoops fans.

Conversely, if the team do get over the line and secure their fourth successive Scottish Cup victory, then perhaps it will be the catalyst for a vast improvement for the rest of the campaign. Lennon will desperately be hoping so.

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