NEIL Lennon has amassed a wealth of experience as a manager since he first stepped into the dugout at Celtic nine years ago and enjoyed a fair degree of success to boot.

So he has had no real need to ask anyone for advice ahead of the William Hill Scottish Cup final – a game he has won on six occasions previously as both a player and a coach – against Hearts at Hampden tomorrow afternoon.

Yet, the Northern Irishman has no shortage of men offering him moral support in the build-up to a game which will, despite his insistence yesterday that the outcome will have no bearing on his future, go a long way towards determining whether he is kept on beyond the summer or is thanked for his efforts and shown the door.

Lennon has been in contact with three individuals who have previously occupied the Parkhead hotseat, and have lifted the Scottish Cup, in recent days. Martin O’Neill and Gordon Strachan, who he played under in the East End of Glasgow, and Brendan Rodgers, who he took over from on an interim basis back in February, have all provided wise counsel.

“I spoke to Martin on Friday and I’ll probably have another catch up either Friday or Saturday morning,” he said. “He’s pleased for me, put it that way. I owe him a lot and I think he’s pleased to see me doing okay.

“I’ve spoken to Brendan. We normally talk before games or text each other, so I’m sure we’ll be in touch and he’ll be as delighted as anyone for us. He was when we won the league and, if we do the treble, he’ll be as delighted as anyone. I speak to Gordon regularly as well.

“You value that stuff. Of course you do. It’s normally me ringing Martin because he’s like Lord Lucan and disappears off the face of the earth, but he’s great.

“To have that sort of shoulder to lean on now and again is brilliant. They know what it’s like. Brendan, Martin, Gordon, they are the best people to speak with. They’ve travelled in these shoes before.”

Perhaps Lennon has felt the need to confer with O’Neill, Strachan and Rodgers in recent days because he knows he will have to get the better of an adversary every bit as wily as that trio if his team are to triumph and become the first in Scottish football history to achieve a treble treble.

He has pitted his wits against Hearts manager Craig Levein on many occasions in the past, not least when he was in charge at Hibernian, and appreciates that Celtic will need to be at their very best to prevail.

Publicly, the two may have traded blows in the media when they were on opposite sides of the Edinburgh divide. But privately there is mutual admiration and friendship. Lennon was quick to offer his support when his counterpart was hospitalised following a health scare last year. Similarly, Levein immediately condemned the supporter who struck his rival with a coin at the end of a derby match earlier this season.

“I like him,” he said. “He has had longevity. It is amazing he hasn’t won a trophy. He won’t mind me saying it, but I hope that continues this weekend. But I like him a lot as a guy. He is spiky in the media, which is good, he has got a sense of humour.

“I enjoyed the couple of years there at Hibs. It was good. The ‘natural order’ stuff that irked me – as he knew it would! But you have to bear in mind he had a health scare at the start of the year which upset me. I was straight on the phone to see how he was and I’m glad to see him looking fit and well again.

“Look, I have respect for all my peers in the game because I know how difficult the job is. But I know from speaking to Craig privately what a really good guy he is. We are going to get criticised, we are going to get people talking about our personality traits, you get analysed to death. But I like the guy and I wish him well again – apart from the weekend.”

Lennon was bemused to learn that Levein is under pressure at Hearts due to poor form and disappointing results. “There’s been speculation surrounding Craig’s job?” he said. “I don’t know where that’s come from. He’s got them to the final, got them to a semi-final and into the top six comfortably. It’s a huge improvement on the previous manager.

“I thought he brought some really good players into Hearts at the start of the season. Injuries have really curtailed their season. With the quality of the squad that he has, to lose (John) Souttar, (Christophe) Berra, (Uche) Ikpeazu, and (Steven) Naismith, you can’t recover from that really.”

Celtic are overriding favourites to win their 27th consecutive cup tie and complete a clean sweep of domestic silverware for the third successive season. Lennon, though, is wary of a team who have recorded a couple of impressive wins over them, albeit on a far tighter pitch at Tynecastle, in the last couple of seasons.

Asked about the fact that most people were expecting Hearts to lose comfortably, Lennon said: “That’s dangerous. I don’t want to listen to all that. They are a dangerous team, strong in set-plays, defensively hard to beat at times. You have to get things right on the day.”