NEIL LENNON splashed a record fee for a Celtic defender when he brought Christopher Jullien to the club from Toulouse at the cost of £7million.
However, the towering French centre-half was overlooked when Cluj arrived for the crucial second leg of their Champions League qualifier last month.
Jullien played in the 1-1 draw in Romania, but was left on the substitutes’ bench – along with £3million left-back Boli Bolingoli – when Dan Petrescu’s side produced a sensational performance to win 4-3 in Glasgow and send the Hoops toppling out of Europe’s most prestigious competition.
Neil Lennon admitted he has no regrets at the decision as he prepares his team for an action replay against Cluj when they arrive for the Europa League Group R confrontation on Thursday night.
The champions’ gaffer, speaking to the Daily Record, explained: “Christopher wasn’t ready. He was still looking a bit off it. We felt that it was only after the window shut that we started to see the best of him.
“He did find his feet slowly but surely after that and with more game time he’s looking far more assured.
“He wasn’t ready that night against Cluj and I don’t think anyone could disagree with that.
“If we had thrown Christopher in to that game it might have killed him or dented his confidence if it hadn’t gone well for him.
“You make those decisions as a manager and I don’t regret it one bit. We scored three goals and should have gone through, but we shot ourselves in the foot.
“But we’ve learned from it as the reaction since has been very positive.”
Lennon, who saw his side lose their 100 per cent Premiership record in the frustrating 1-1 draw with Hibs at Easter Road at the weekend, added: “We have improved slowly but surely.
“There are still goals in us, but defensively we have more depth, as well. They’ll have to play well to beat us.
“If we can get to the levels we know we can get to it’s going to take a good team to stop us.
“It will be a different defence from last time because Jozo Simunovic won’t be there and Callum McGregor won’t play at left-back while it will be Fraser Forster or Craig Gordon in goal with Scott Bain being out.
“Hatem Abd Elhamed or Kris Ajer might start, but we’ll assess that and the likes of Boli Bolingoli, Jullien and Moritz Bauer have all come in and started to show how good they are.
“We can enjoy the game and, hopefully, make an impact.
“We’ve started the group with a really good performance in Rennes and now we need to follow that up with another good performance and a win. But we know it won’t be easy.
“I’m looking forward to another big European game under the lights. It’s something we can all savour.
“There’s maybe a wee extra bit of an edge there for the players with what happened previously.”