NEIL Lennon believes the hostile reception he will receive from Rangers fans when he makes his return to Ibrox as Celtic manager tomorrow will be down to the fact they fear him.

Lennon has also claimed the Govan club have shown a lack of class by deciding not to give their city rivals, who wrapped up their eighth consecutive Scottish title last weekend, a guard of honour before kick-off.

And he insisted that his men would have applauded their opponents onto the park if the roles had been reversed.

The Northern Irishman will step into the dugout at Ibrox as Celtic manager for the first time in seven years in their penultimate Ladbrokes Premiership fixture of the 2018/19 campaign tomorrow.

The 47-year-old has long been a hate figure for followers of Rangers and he is sure to be targeted for abuse before, during and after the derby encounter.

However, Lennon revealed that he took the treatment he is subjected to as a back-handed compliment - because it shows they are afraid of what he is capable of.

Asked if he was looking forward to the experience, he said: “I’d much prefer to be playing. But do you get a kick out of it? Yeah, you do. Because they fear you. That’s why you get all the abuse.

“If I was just a run of the mill player they would just disregard me. I think there is a certain element of fear within them when it comes to me.”

Rangers’ decision not to form a guard of honour for Celtic has polarised opinion in the build-up to the final Old Firm game of the season.

“It’s a break from tradition,” said Lennon. “I think we would have done it if the shoe had been on the other foot. But it’s not a major issue.

“It would have been a touch of class if they did it. I’m disappointed they are not. Celtic would have done it.”

Meanwhile, Lennon, who confirmed that Kieran Tierney is in contention for a start against Rangers, has dismissed online rumours that Leigh Griffiths had been sacked by Celtic.

Griffiths is back in training at Lennoxtown after returning from an extended break to deal with personal issues and the interim manager has been pleased with his progress.

“He’s doing very well,” he said. “He is in good shape now and we are hoping to get him on the grass next week.

“He has worked very hard and his behaviour away from the club since I came in has been impeccable. So he just has to ignore all the nonsense.

“We are human beings at the end of the day and it can hurt. Leigh is a strong character and he has been through a really tough time. The club and Leigh are doing all we can to get him back playing football and doing what he does best.

“I’d prefer him not to react to it and to stay away from it. It doesn’t help anybody. That’s something he will have to learn as he goes along.”

Lennon, though, stressed that it was unlikely that Griffiths will play in the Premiership game against Hearts at Parkhead a week tomorrow or the William Hill Scottish Cup final against the Tynecastle club at Hampden six days later.

“It will probably be too soon for him,” he said. “He’s been out for a considerable length of time and he’s not training with the group yet. We are hoping to get him involved next week but it may be too soon for him.

“He has been training on his own and doing double sessions. It has been conditioning and physical fitness. He’s made really good strides in the last three or four weeks. So it’s time to get him back out on the grass and interactive with the ball again.”

Asked about Tierney, who came off in the second-half of the 3-0 win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie last Saturday, Lennon was upbeat.

“We are hoping Kieran will be okay for Sunday," he said. "He hasn’t trained today but we will assess him on Saturday.