MARTIN O’NEILL insists Celtic deserved to win their ninth successive title – and there should be no asterisk attached to the achievement.

The former Hoops boss led the team to three championships after arriving in the summer of 2000 and leaving five years later.

O’Neill, now 68, declared Neil Lennon’s men as worthy winners of their 51st flag – and claimed there was no chance of Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox outfit catching them.

The SPFL bosses awarded the Parkhead side the crown with the team sitting on top of the Premiership with a 13-point advantage with only eight games to play. They also possessed a superior goal difference of plus 25 over the Govan club.

Speaking about Celtic’s latest title feat, O’Neill told Stats Perform: “They need to be congratulated, it’s been a great season for them.

“They’ve deserved to win it, absolutely no question about that.

“Had the season been extended for a couple of weeks, they would have taken the points and got there.

“There’s no way that Rangers could have caught them. From that viewpoint, it was deserved. I can understand Rangers wanting to put an asterisk besides things.

“I’m sure if the shoe was on the other foot, that might be the same case.

“Obviously, to prevent them from winning nine in a row, for a start.

“But there should be no asterisk attached to that at all, absolutely not.

“Celtic won it on the field and had the games been completed they would have surely gone on to do it.

“They deserve the credit for that.”

Lennon’s side kicked off the league campaign with a runaway 7-0 romp against St Johnstone on August 3 and never lost pole position in the Premiership.

O’Neill became the first Celtic manager to win the domestic treble in his debut campaign since Jock Stein managed the feat twice in 1966/67 and 1968/69.

He was the manager who made Lennon’s dream come true when he bought the Northern Ireland international midfielder from his former club Leicester City for £6million in December 2000.

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