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A stroll to the title, but without the baffies on . . .

There's just no pleasing some folk.

Neil Lennon could waddle into the local and inform all and sundry that he had just climbed Everest only for some cynical bar fly to indignantly snort "aye son, but did you do it with your baffies on?"

With the rest of the SPFL Premiership wheezing on behind, Lennon's Celtic - with a 21-point lead over a distant Aberdeen - are almost poised to stick a flag on the summit and claim a third successive title.

Having lost valuable assets like Gary Hooper, Joe Ledley, Victor Wanyama and Kelvin Wilson, Lennon has always maintained the current campaign has been one of transition.

An early exit from the Champions League, an event they reached the last 16 in last season, and premature departures from both domestic cups leaves "just" the league title as a reward for a season of endeavour.

The phrase "just" was Lennon's word and he uttered it with a smile and a raise of a scunnered eyebrow as he poked at those who have poured scorn over the achievement.

Only in the bamboozling world of Scottish football could the ultimate conquest of a league championship win be sneered at. Lennon will not knock it, of course.

"I'll take it," said Lennon who is keen to see his troops get back to winning ways today against Inverness Caledonian Thistle following a first league defeat of the season at Aberdeen on Tuesday night.

"I'll be quite happy to take the league title every year. It might not be enough for other people, but if you're bringing in players and then selling them off for big money, it's difficult to replace them straight away. There's no question of that.

"What I'm seeing now is that we've got Virgil van Dijk in and Nir Biton's starting to make really good progress. We're starting to see blooms of improvement again with the newer players.

"People just think we should be going unbeaten in a season and we should be rail-roading teams, but it doesn't always happen that way.

"We have had a transitional season, I have said that all along. People say we have not been making progression; I would disagree. It is difficult to progress when you are selling your best players and we have sold four of those this year.

"It is a case of stabilising this year and rebuilding to get better, and build on what is arguably going to be 'just' a league title."

The Tuesday night defeat to Aberdeen will have Lennon cracking the whip again and the Northern Irishman will not tolerate any drop in performance or motivation.

"It is not the end of the world, it is the end of a very good run," he said. "We have to keep motivated, and keep bubbling along. We have only conceded 14 goals this season.

"We maybe we can create a record there. Obviously we can try and get over 100 points too."

As well as losing in the Granite City, Celtic also lost Van Dijk to a red card that Lennon is confident will be rescinded after an appeal.

On an eventful night in the north east, Fraser Forster, the colossus between the posts, finally had to pick the ball out of his net for the first time in 1256 minutes on league duty but his astonishing run of consecutive clean sheets, which have reportedly attracted the attentions of Barcelona and Real Madrid, has been rewarded with another call-up to the England squad.

"I think he's almost as good as Joe Hart," insisted Lennon when asked if he can dethrone England's current No.1 custodian and agreed that it would be a travesty if he never made it to this summer's World Cup in Brazil. "I think he's pushing Joe Hart all the way now."

Forster is a member of a current generation at Celtic Park who are enjoying all the lavish trappings of success. Two decades ago, the foundations for a flourishing future were hammered down when Fergus McCann, the bunneted Scots-Canadian, hauled the club back from the brink of extinction.

"I said to the players, 'you know all those nice houses you've got, and those fancy cars', well you wouldn't have them if it wasn't for this guy," added Lennon as he recalled the time he introduced McCann to a number of players in Boston a couple of years ago.

"He [McCann] was very reticent, very reluctant to come forward about it, very humble, very shy, but he spoke to the players for a couple of minutes. I think that pleased him. What a 20 years it's been. The last 14-15 years have been fantastic for the club and he laid the foundations for that."

As for Lennon's own memories of that tumultuous takeover in 1994?

"I don't know, I was at Crewe at the time," he chortled.

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