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'I’ve had a tough year and no one really sees what goes on behind the scenes in people’s lives'

Ireland defender Shane Duffy is back in the Celtic team.

On-loan Celtic defender Shane Duffy.
On-loan Celtic defender Shane Duffy.
Image: PA

SHANE DUFFY HAS paid tribute to Celtic manager Neil Lennon for his support during a difficult spell for the Republic of Ireland defender.

After joining the Scottish champions on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion in September, Duffy was heavily criticised by pundits and supporters following a series of below-par performances.

However, the Derry native marked his first Scottish Premiership start since 25 October with a goal and a commanding display in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Kilmarnock.

It was a much-needed boost for Duffy, who has endured a challenging 2020 on a personal level after his father Brian passed away in May at the age of 53.

Speaking to the Daily Record after yesterday’s game, he was keen to express his appreciation for his manager, whose position has come under pressure in recent weeks as a run of dreadful form has considerably hindered Celtic’s hopes of a 10th consecutive title. 

“He’s been great with me,” Duffy said of Lennon. “He came around and he really cares about players and their emotions. He knows I was going through a tough time.

“I’ve really never had a manager like that before who would come around and care – ‘How are you getting on in life? How are you handling it up here?’ It meant a lot to me and I’ll always respect him for that.

“I’ve had a tough year and no one really sees what goes on behind the scenes in people’s lives. Maybe I took things a little bit to heart and was trying too hard to do well here and not let everyone down.

“My dad was a massive part of my life. It’s hard as he was the one I’d speak to about everything in life. My two kids also live back in Derry and I’m up here alone. With the Covid restrictions I can’t really interact with the team as much as I’d like.

“But listen, I’m big and ugly enough to understand I have got to do better on the park. That’s what I’m paid to do and it’s a job I love.”

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celtic-v-kilmarnock-scottish-premiership-celtic-park Duffy scores against Kilmarnock. Source: PA

Following a spell on the bench, Duffy was restored to the starting line-up last Thursday night as Celtic rounded off their Europa League campaign with a 3-2 win against Lille.

The 28-year-old said: “I actually felt he [Lennon] took me out of the team at the right time because my form wasn’t good. He’s done the right thing by me and picked the time to bring me back in.

“I watched the team from the sidelines and saw what I could learn. I feel I’m still getting to know the players and it’s not been easy, but it was obvious to see my form did dip.

“It affected me when things weren’t going well and I was all over the shop. That’s just me being honest. But I have a great manager here who has been brilliant with me. He knows all about it, having been here at Celtic for so long, and he knows what to do with me.

“The manager is a big reason why I came here because of the faith he showed in me to try and get me here. He’s been brilliant from the day that I walked into the club and gives you confidence.”

With the Scottish Cup final against Hearts scheduled for Hampden Park on Sunday, it has been a timely return to the side for Duffy.

He added: “I know my form hasn’t been good enough, but I know I can come back stronger. The Celtic fans haven’t seen me before and since I’ve come into the club I haven’t been me. I get them, I understand the criticism. I wouldn’t be happy with myself either, to be honest.”

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Paul Dollery

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