LEAVING behind the intense rivalry of the Old Firm and the bright lights of the Champions League might be tough for Neil Lennon but the new Wanderers boss is resigned to the fact he will have to earn his spurs again in the Championship.

Derby duels with Wigan Athletic or Blackburn Rovers might not stir the senses like Celtic v Rangers, at least not beyond the realm of Lancashire, yet they are the kind of bread-and-butter games the 43-year-old manager will be expected to win now he is in the Whites hot-seat.

Living in the Glasgow goldfish bowl was difficult at times for Lennon, and his six-month sabbatical, spent largely working in the media, recharged his batteries for a fresh challenge.

Despite toppling Barcelona and guiding the Hoops to two lucrative group stages in Europe’s premier competition, he was still overlooked for the few top-flight jobs to become available in England over the last four months.

Their loss is Wanderers’ gain – but there was still a slight air of cynicism in his voice when asked why Champions League football was not considered enough of a qualification to be considered for a Premier League post.

“You should probably ask some of the chairmen,” he smiled.

“It (Scottish football) may be looked down on a wee bit but we did some great things in the Champions League, as did Gordon Strachan before me, but I’m happy with the decision I made to join Bolton, they are good football people here.”

Lennon plunges straight into the busy Championship schedule with three games in eight days – trips to Birmingham and Charlton, followed by his first home game, against Brentford.

Household names they may not be, but Lennon is not complaining.

“This is a challenge I am really looking forward to, I don’t consider it to be a brave move or anything like that,” he said.

“Gordon Strachan did the same thing and moved in at Middlesbrough. I look at the Premier League now and you’ve got Brendan Rodgers, Paul Lambert, Steve Bruce, Roberto Martinez, all managers who have been in the Championship.

“It’s not as easy as walking straight into a Premier League job; it’s a pretty exclusive band.”

Life in Bolton will be far removed from the pressures he faced on and off the field north of the border.

“It’s a different environment here,” he said. “It was very intense in Glasgow – whether you were at Rangers or Celtic.

“There’s such a rivalry and I may miss it a wee bit, the edge.

“There will be derbies here with Blackburn up the road and Wigan. The North West is a hotbed of football, maybe not as intense as Glasgow but I feel those four years have prepared me for anything that lies ahead.”

The easy accusation to make – at least on this side of Hadrian’s Wall – is that the current lack of competition in the SPL somehow devalues what Lennon achieved in four years at Parkhead.

Needless to say, the Whites boss does not share that view.

“I think it’s sometimes unfair but it is a stereotype,” he said. “It did irk me for a while.

“Without Rangers people perceive it as easy. We did win the league by 30 points so we did prove it was comfortable. Tony Mowbray found it difficult, Rony's found it difficult to start with. It’s not an easy environment to succeed. There’s huge expectations at Celtic.

“The game is in a little bit of a decline clubwise. There’s no Rangers and Hibs and Hearts – the two big Edinburgh clubs – aren’t in the SPL either. It’s suffered a little bit with the loss of those three clubs but there’s talent up there.

“If you look at the Scotland team and you look at some of the players who have come down – like James McCarthy, James McArthur, Andy Robertson now at Hull, Fraser Forster earned his stripes at Celtic and now he’s in the England squad.

"Gary Hooper, Kris Commons – they’ve all played up in Scotland and thrived and not only played very well domestically but competed very well at a European level as well.

“I understand the perceptions but it’s better than what people think.”