NEIL LENNON insists Celtic’s season has NOT been an “unmitigated disaster”.

The Hoops boss made the remarkable admission as he prepares his players for the 7.30pm kick-off against Ross County in Dingwall with the champions 15 points adrift of Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox side in the Premiership.

With nine games to go, the Parkhead club’s bid for a historic tenth successive title is in tatters after a shambolic campaign that has brought three defeats and seven draws.

Celtic were out of three competitions – the Champions League, the Europa League and the Betfred League Cup – before the turn of the year as disappointments piled up at an inexplicable rate.

Lennon has 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, after guiding the team to five league wins in a row, 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.

“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.

“They haven’t given up on anything and I am not surprised by the run we are on at the minute. It is only five games and they are capable of a lot more.”

Lennon, speaking to the Sunday Mail, added: “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.”

* DON’T mtiss the unbeatable match report from Ross County v Celtic this evening – only in your champion CQN.

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