Football: Lions Have Hitz Jackpot; LAMBO'S THE BOSS Hoops Boss O'Neill Tips Paul for the Top STAR PUPIL LAMBERT IS ALL SET TO FOLLOW IN FOOTSTEPS OF MASTERS

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Byline: Michael Baillie

CELTIC manager Martin O'Neil has backed Paul Lambert to be a success at Livingston - insisting the job is not too much too soon.

The Celtic club captain will bring down the curtain on his illustrious playing career at the end of this season and take his first tentative steps into management with the West Lothian outfit.

He had always stressed he intended to move into the managerial side once his playing career came to an end and last year he gained his UEFA Pro-licence, the highest grade of coaching qualification, from the DFB, the German FA.

Lambert, who has played under O'Neill, Alex Smith, Alex McLeish, and Ottmar Hiztfeld - whom he counts as a personal friend and played for when Borussia Dortmund won the Champions League in 1997 - will become Livingston's fourth manager in the past 12 months when he takes the hotseat on June 1.

Some will feel he has not served his time on the managerial front and the appointment at Livi may have come too soon for him.

But O'Neill believes the player who has won every honour in Scotland, gathered 40 international caps and lifted the top club prize in European football, is ideally quali-fied to make the transition from top player to top manager.

The Celtic boss said: "I'm delighted with the news. I had a fair idea that Paul would be going into management but this is an great opportunity for him.

"This is a terrific chance for Paul, and that's regardless of whether Livingston manage to stay in the SPL, although obviously it would be preferable if they can.

"People will say he's very young but I think he's up for this job and capable of doing it extremely well.

"He has great experience in the game, and while none of that is in management, Paul has the qualities and characteristics to become an excellent manager.

"I've known him for a number of years now and the kind of things you would normally expect to concern a manager won't faze him.

"The way I see it, this will be mutually beneficial to Livingston and Paul and it goes without saying that he'll go there with my very best wishes."

Livingston's chief executive Vivien Kyles revealed a glowing reference from O'Neill helped convince them Lambert was the man for the job following Richard Gough's shock decision to part company with the club. …