OUTSPOKEN Chris Sutton has ripped into Celtic and labelled their efforts to win a historic tenth successive title as “PATHETIC”.

The former Hoops hitman also claimed £4.5million goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas has been “a waste of money” and manager Neil Lennon and his players must have “a good look” at themselves.

Sutton insisted dire summer recruitment – including the £5million spent on five-goal Albian Ajeti and the £2million loan deal for Shane Duffy – plus unconvincing displays from under-performing established stars have played a monumental part in the team’s struggles in a campaign that promised so much back in August.

The one-time England international striker said: “The defence of Celtic’s title has been weak, if not the weakest. It’s been pathetic.

“There’s no way back. Absolutely no way. Of course, Celtic have to look forward and plan, but as a former player, you can never give up.

“The next run of games are absolutely vital to Neil. He can’t look too far forward as he needs to keep himself in a job.”

Sutton reckons getting a new keeper MUST be a priority signing in this transfer window if his old club are to stabilise their season.

He said: “We talk about pressure on Neil Lennon and, of course, there is, but what about the pressure on (head of recruitment) Nicky Hammond?

“The fact you look at the situation where Celtic have signed a goalkeeper for millions of pounds who hasn’t made a save this season.

“Christopher Jullien is a massive loss, but the fact Celtic don’t have a keeper of authority leaves them extremely vulnerable.”

On the central defender issue where the Frenchman could be sidelined for the remainder of the campaign following a sickening collision with a post in last week’s 3-0 win over Dundee United, Sutton observed: “I think Celtic can make do. I’m not saying it’s perfect.

“But the position they can’t make do with is a goalkeeper.

“It’s probably sickening for Celtic fans watching Fraser Forster keep a clean sheet for Southampton against Liverpool on Tuesday with his presence and authority. It’s a priority position.

“It’s been interesting this season with the chopping and changing. He’s my No.1, now he’s my No.1. We’ve had Conor Hazard, Scott Bain. Barkas was chopped and now he’s back in.

“There’s nothing to suggest that somehow their form is going to be good enough to warrant playing in goal.

“It’s been a waste of money on Barkas. What have we seen to make us think he’s going to turn it around? If he does, good luck to him.

“But I just don’t see it, so bringing in a keeper is the priority in January and also hanging onto what he’s got.”

Sutton, speaking on the Record Celtic Podcast, continued: “There is pressure on the recruitment department. Albian Ajeti has years left on his contract and seems to be animated and angry if anyone says anything about him. But he has to prove himself on the pitch. He hasn’t done enough.

“These players who have signed have played well in patches.

“Does that tell you something about the mentality and what type of characters they are? The players need to take ownership and responsibility.

“And these players, who are relatively young in footballing terms, who think they are going to go on and get big moves, they have to perform and prove it. And this season there are massive question marks about the character of most.

“Why are you at a big club? Who would you take on performances this season? I include Odsonne Eduoard.

“There have been so many underperformers this season. The manager carries the can. He understands the consequences. Eventually, it’ll be off with his head if these players don’t perform for the rest of the season.

“It’s not only the manager who needs to have a good look at himself, it’s not only Nicky Hammond who needs to have a good look at himself, it’s every one of those players.”

Commenting on the pressure on his former team-mate Lennon, Sutton added: “The club talked about addressing the situation and Neil seems to have the support of Dermot Desmond, so at this moment in time, it is still Neil’s job and it is his to lose.

“He probably needs to win all of the upcoming games, win the Scottish Cup and he needs to finish the season exceptionally strongly. He needs to do something where there becomes an optimism again and hit the ground next season in the Champions League qualifiers.

“Neil knows the importance of the Champions League qualifiers. Celtic need to get their backsides in gear on this one right now. They should have clear targets.

“What Neil has to do is have a clear plan going forward. Short term in that he needs to win games, but he must realise the importance of recruitment in the summer. Celtic need to be ready.”

The Hoops, 19 points adrift in the Premiership with three games in hand, are due back from their warm-weather training camp in Dubai tomorrow and will face Hibs in a revised fixture at Parkhead on Monday evening.

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