NEIL LENNON insisted Celtic’s 2020/21 season had NOT been an “unmitigated disaster”.
The Hoops boss made the remarkable admission as he prepared his players for what turned out to be his last game in charge of the Hoops against Ross County in Dingwall on the fateful Sunday evening of February 21 2021 with the champions 15 points adrift of Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox side at the top of the Premiership.
With nine games remaining, the Parkhead club’s bid for a historic tenth successive title was in jeopardy during a shambolic campaign that had brought three defeats and seven draws.
Lennon had been the target for some ferocious criticism from raging fans – a lot of it admittedly way over the top – but the season all too quickly adopted the look of a car crash as soon as unseeded and decidedly average Ferencvaros beat them in Glasgow to extinguish early hopes of a multi-million pound pay day in Europe’s elite tournament.
It didn’t get much better in the Europa with back-to-back defeats from AC Milan and Sparta Prague home and away to finish bottom of the table with a solitary win.
However, the Hoops gaffer remained defiant and said: “We still have a lot of work to do and a lot of improvements to make. But it is not the unmitigated disaster that everyone makes it out to be and we want to finish the season as strongly as possible and see where that takes us.
UNDER PRESSURE…Neil Lennon in the snowbound dug-out during the 2-2 draw with Livingston in West Lothian in January 2021.
“We’re looking at every game on its own merit. We’re not setting targets. We’re looking at the next game against Ross County. They are fighting for their lives and we can’t afford to drop points.
“We need to try to keep our run going and not worry about what’s going on elsewhere. If we take it to beyond the split, then so be it.
“To be successful here year in, year out you need to be of a certain temperament and be able to take the rough with the smooth. We are seeing that now with the good groove and it takes a bit of character to do that.
“You do learn about individuals and how they cope with adversity. It is always a good sign when they come out on the other side of it.
“You don’t get too high, don’t get too low and just be consistent with your work ethic and the messages you want to get across to the players.
“You have to try to pay no attention to the praise that you get or the criticism you get.”
Ninety minutes of match action later, Celtic had collapsed to a dreadful 1-0 loss when Jordan White was allowed to leap without a serious challenge from Kristoffer Ajer and Co to head past the static Scott Bain.
As the team coach travelled back from the Highlands, the writing was on the wall for the manager.