IT is the question no Celtic player really wants to be asked this week: when some of the fans argued with Neil Lennon at the weekend, who was right and who was wrong?
No player will pick a side because they have too much to lose. Either they risk falling out with the fans or they risk a row with the manager. Neither of those is a clever career move. So when it was Charlie Mulgrew's turn for media duties yesterday, at an event to promote ESPN's live coverage of the Hearts-Celtic game at Tynecastle tomorrow night, he dealt pretty well with the verbal equivalent of a live grenade.
Lennon had remonstrated with fans behind his dug-out after Celtic crashed at home to Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday, and later said he would resign if supporters wished him to leave. It brought unexpected drama to what ought to have been a routine afternoon.
"It was one of those things in the heat of the moment, when the game was not going our way," said Mulgrew, deftly draining potential controversy from the matter. "Fans have a right to have an opinion: the way it was going we just didn't take our chances. It wasn't good enough from us.
"Fans are entitled to their opinion and with the manager it just got a wee bit heated. We're all in it together with the fans so I'm sure it will be fine. It shows the passion of the fans, the manager and everyone else at the club.
"In the heat of the moment when things aren't going our way, it just shows you how desperate the fans and the manager are for the team to do well. It's a good thing. I've not heard him saying anything about quitting. I'm sure he won't be thinking along those lines.
"The fans were great against Barcelona and they've been great for us this season. When they travel away they always get behind us. The Hearts fans will get behind their side so it will make for a good atmosphere."
Only a small group of supporters angered Lennon, but frustration has been evident among the wider fanbase as Celtic have dropped 17 points from the 42 available so far, winning only one of their last five league games.
They remain top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League and there is a widespread belief that they will motor away in the second half of the season to win the championship comfortably. For now, though, the defending champions could be knocked into second place if Aberdeen beat Inverness tonight.
Mulgrew was then asked if there was a genuine title race this season. "Of course there is," he said. "It's only people on the outside that are saying there won't be one. No-one's saying that in the changing room.
"Every team wants to win against us; it's like their cup final. There are a couple of other sides – Aberdeen and Hibernian – who are going well so it's not going to be as easy as people are saying.
"The last thing we are going to do is get sucked into thinking it's going to be easy. I think we owe it to ourselves and to the fans to get some results.
"It might be that beating Barcelona has given teams a bigger incentive to beat us, I don't know. The European games might be a factor in the domestic results, but I'm not using it as an excuse.
"When you're in the Champions League there's no point complaining that there are too many games. Against Barcelona, a lot went into the defensive side of it. But it's where we want to be. We're not complaining."
n Charlie Mulgrew was promoting ESPN's live coverage of Hearts v Celtic. Wednesday, from 6.45pm