NEIL LENNON admits his players are missing the backing of the Celtic support on matchday.
The champions will go into Sunday’s delayed Scottish Cup Final against Hearts looking to clinch an extraordinary quadruple treble at a deserted Hampden Park.
Coincidentally, the Hoops met the Tynecastle men in the showpiece shoot-out on May 25 last year in vastly different circumstances with the national stadium packed with the team’s followers celebrating the treble treble after Odsonne Edouard netted two second-half goals for a 2-1 triumph.
Lennon and his players, though, have been forced to run the gauntlet of angry supporters in recent times after a wretched run of only two wins from 12 games while they also toppled out of three competitions in three months – the Champions League, the Europa League and the Betfred League Cup.
Some Celtic stars were left “shaken” after the defeat from the Dingwall outfit last month when the fans demonstrated outside the ground.
However, the team have responded by winning their last two outings, an impressive 3-2 triumph over French high-flyers Lille and a solid 2-0 success over Kilmarnock in the Premiership.
Lennon, preparing for the assault on more silverware at the weekend, told BBC Sportsound: “I just think, for me, since the start of the season, the lack of atmosphere has definitely been to our detriment.
“I’m not using that as a whole excuse, but players at this club who have been here a long time feed off the energy.
“Whether it be friendly roar or a hostile atmosphere, they get their buzz from that. That’s not there.
“Some have been inconsistent, there’s no question, and have had a dip in form.
“Some have maybe thought they’d done their bit here and it’s time to move on to pastures new.
“But I think they’re very focused now on what the reaction can be when they come off it.
“They’ve felt the wrath of the fans and they don’t want to feel that again.”
The champions are bidding to win their historic tenth successive title, but have slipped 13 points adrift of Gerrard’s Govan outfit although they have two games in hand. The Hoops chief insisted that advantage can be wiped out “very, very quickly”.
Lennon: “There is a demand, almost a hysteria for 10 In a row, but it’s not given to you.
“You’ve got to go out and earn it. It’s been prevalent the past few years what the fans want from this run of titles, but we can’t take anything for granted.
“There are going to be a few bumps along the way. We’ve been through a big bump and, hopefully, we’re out the other side of it.
“We’ve never taken anything as guaranteed. Even on Sunday, we’re not taking that as a guaranteed win, that we’ll turn up, pick up the trophy and walk out of Hampden.
“We have to earn the right, which the players have done.
“In terms of the league, it’s step by step. There’s a long way to go, but these gaps can close very, very quickly.
“But we have to find a level of consistency, to placate the fans first and foremost and to get our belief going again as well.
“It’s difficult, when everyone wants to beat you, to take your crown, to keep that going.
“We’ve had a spell where there’s been poor performances, good performances where we didn’t get the breaks at times.
“All of those are part of football and some people can’t get their head around that sometimes.
“They’re human beings at the end of the day, they are prone to making the odd mistake here and there.
“We’ve got a lot of belief in them still, and we think this could be a great season for us, even still.”