NEIL LENNON has hit back at suggestions Celtic players downed tools last season during a disastrous campaign for the club.

The Hoops’ bid for a historic tenth successive title was practically over with their loss at Ibrox on January 2 when Callum McGregor unfortunately notched the only goal of the game that had been dominated for the first hour by the visitors who had Nir Bitton controversially red-carded when they were on top.

The team toppled out of three other tournaments – the Champions League, Europa League and the League Cup – before the turn of the year and Lennon departed Parkhead on February 23, only two days after a dismal performance in a 1-0 flop against relegation-threatened Ross County in Dingwall.

THE END IS NIGH…Neil Lennon implores his players during an awful performance in the 1-0 loss to Ross County in Dingwall.

Assistant gaffer John Kennedy was put in charge for the last 10 games of the term that had promised so much the previous summer and failed to deliver big-style.

Ange Postecoglou took over in June and had won five on the bounce going into today’s home Premiership encounter against St Mirren.

Fifty-year-old Lennon insisted: “I take exception to the theory that they weren’t playing for me and now they’re playing for Ange.

“Because the year before for me they were incredible – we beat Lazio and won a treble – but, when the lockdown came, it affected the players differently.

“We were in the midst of a pandemic. Players were coming into the club after being sold that Glasgow was a great city, there would be big crowds and a nice social life. They had none of that.”

Lennon repeated his previous assertion that Odsonne Edouard had made it clear he wants to quit the club.

SIGN OF THE TIMES…Neil Lennon trudges off the field in Dingwall after another inexplicable defeat.

The Irishman said: “You could tell in the pre-season when we went to France that his body language wasn’t with us.

“I think he was of the mindset with his representatives that a move was in the offing. He had scored 28 goals up until March 2020.

“He was sought after by everyone, then the pandemic came. We had one bid for Odsonne in the summer of last year, but it was nowhere near the valuation of the player.”

Lennon, speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Football Breakfast Show, added: “I always believed the return of fans would bring the buzz back.

“Not only to the club, but the players, too. I think that’s what’s evident now.”

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report on Celtic v St Mirren this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.

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