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Season review: Scotland

Published: Monday 21 May 2012, 13.40CET
Neil Lennon won his first Scottish title as Celtic FC manager, ending three years of Rangers FC dominance, while Heart of Midlothian FC and Kilmarnock FC also picked up silverware.
by Alex O'Henley
from Glasgow
Season review: Scotland
Celtic manager Neil Lennon lifts the Scottish Premier League title ©Getty Images
Published: Monday 21 May 2012, 13.40CET

Season review: Scotland

Neil Lennon won his first Scottish title as Celtic FC manager, ending three years of Rangers FC dominance, while Heart of Midlothian FC and Kilmarnock FC also picked up silverware.

Having lost the Scottish Premier League title on the final day of the 2010/11 season, Celtic FC manager Neil Lennon was under pressure to deny city rivals Rangers FC a fourth title on the trot. That burden looked to be taking its toll as Celtic slipped 15 points behind Rangers by mid-October, but in a remarkable turnaround, Lennon's side were top by the end of 2011 – it was a position they would not relinquish for the rest of the season.

Their 43rd Scottish championship was sealed with an emphatic 6-0 win against Kilmarnock FC, exacting a measure of revenge on the Rugby Park club who had recorded a surprise win against the Hoops in the Scottish League Cup. The Scottish Cup itself went to Heart of Midlothian FC as they saw off Edinburgh rivals Hibernian FC in convincing fashion.

Champions: Celtic FC
After a shaky start, Celtic's season clicked into gear on 15 October when they came from 3-0 down at Kilmarnock to salvage a significant point at Rugby Park. Lennon's players then went on a magnificent unbeaten run of 27 games in all domestic competitions.

Celtic were already four points ahead when Rangers were handed a ten-point deduction for entering administration on 14 February. Although the Bhoys passed up the opportunity to clinch the title at the home of their eternal rivals the following month, Celtic were back to their swashbuckling best a fortnight later when they ended their four-year wait at Rugby Park.

Cup final: Hibernian FC 1-5 Heart of Midlothian FC
Hearts lifted the Scottish Cup for the eighth time with a comprehensive win against their city rivals. In the first all-Edinburgh cup final since 1896, Darren Barr and Rudi Skacel gave Hearts a 2-0 lead inside the first half-hour before Hibs captain James McPake pulled one back prior to the break.

However, two goals and a dismissal within five minutes of the restart handed the initiative back to the Jambos with Danny Grainger converting a penalty after Pa Kujabi had received a second booking before Ryan McGowan added a fourth. Skacel completed the scoring 15 minutes from time with his second to deny Hibs a first Scottish Cup success since 1902.

European places*
Celtic FC – UEFA Champions League, third qualifying round
Motherwell FC – UEFA Champions League, third qualifying round
Heart of Midlothian FC – UEFA Europa League, play-offs
Dundee United FC – UEFA Europa League, third qualifying round
Saint Johnstone FC – UEFA Europa League, second qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the Year: Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic FC)
A broken ankle for last season's player of the year Emilio Izaguirre in August handed Mulgrew a chance to establish himself in Celtic's starting XI and he duly grabbed it with both hands. Composed in defence and often deadly from set pieces, the 26-year-old chipped in with an impressive eight goals, including a double in the game which clinched the title at Kilmarnock. His fine season was rewarded with a first call-up to the national squad along with the player of the year awards from his peers and the Scottish football writers.

One to watch: James Forrest (Celtic FC)
The 20-year-old winger was fast-tracked by Lennon into the first-team squad as soon as he took over as manager and his faith has been rewarded with a series of impressive performances. Forrest picked up the young player of the year award and despite his tender years, it was he who led the fightback in the season-defining 3-3 draw against Kilmarnock. With nine goals from 43 appearances this term, he is set to be a key player for both club and country in the coming years.

Surprise package: Motherwell FC
Stuart McCall's side capitalised on Rangers' fall to finish third and claim the second available UEFA Champions League spot. It is the first time the Steelmen have qualified for club football's elite tournament and the achievement was secured on the back of the Fir Park side's highest ever Premier League points tally – 62.

Leading scorer: Gary Hooper, Celtic FC (24)

Relegated: Dunfermline Athletic FC

Promoted: Ross County FC

Number: 25
The number of clean sheets Celtic kept in the league this season, one game short of the club's all-time record of 26, set in 1914.

Quote
"It's the best day of my professional life. It's been a long time coming. It's been two years in the waiting. I'm so proud of them; they deserve it. We have been the best team in Scotland by a long way and we have finished it in the right way. I couldn't have done it without the club, the players, fans and my family."
Neil Lennon on leading Celtic to the championship for the first time.

Last updated: 10/07/12 0.13CET

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