CELTIC yesterday tried to play down the controversy surrounding their head coach, Wim Jansen, who made it clear on the club hotline on Monday that he was considering using a get-out clause in his contract to leave Parkhead in the summer.

A terse statement from general manager Jock Brown indicated that contract negotiations would be taking place ''within the time scale'' agreed with Jansen, but the tone of the announcement will do nothing to alleviate the fear of supporters that the man who has led the side to the brink of the treble in his first season will be allowed to depart.

The fact that Jansen, who has been exceptionally reticent about discussing anything bar strictly football matters, went public on the club's own information service to admit that he is not certain to stay, is clear enough evidence that he feels aggrieved.

The reaction by Celtic to his decision to speak out will not soothe concerns that an amicable agreement over contract details will be reached easily, if at all.

Said Brown, no doubt after discussions with chairman Fergus McCann about the Jansen revelation: ''Wim has chosen to confirm a detail of his contract in public and that was his decision. The club, of course, would never discuss the terms of anyone's contract.''

Referring to the escape clause which would allow Jansen to leave after a year of his three-year deal, Brown said: ''Wim has highlighted that this is a term he wanted in his contract. The club, naturally, will honour all aspects of the contract in full. It is significant that Wim has stated he feels wanted at the club but I would have been surprised to hear anything to the contrary. Wim will be having discussions with the club within the timescales he agreed.''

The vibes from Jansen's comments, none the less, indicate that he is very unhappy that the success to date has not brought about an approach from the club to ensure his presence next season. That would be done by offering a new, improved deal and, whatever happens, that now seems likely to be a prerequisite of his staying at Parkhead.

Others are said to be waiting in the wings if the manager decides to head for new pastures, which coaches of his calibre, especially from Holland, do on a regular basis.

Brown concluded by saying: ''I am sure that the best thing for Wim, the club, and its support right now is to focus on the extremely important fixture against Hearts on Saturday.''

There is no question he is right on that count but Celtic fans will be asking if a coach of Jansen's dedication would not have thought long and hard about the timing of his statement. The fact that he said his piece in the run-up to the game that could well put Celtic firmly en route to their first championship for a decade has to be an indication of strong feelings.

Brown's statement was read out on the club hotline yesterday.

However, a response that the fans might have found more encouraging would have been news that the club had called in the manager to get straight down to talks confirming just how much he is appreciated.

The burgeoning dispute, for that is what it looks like, will be the talk of the dressing room when the players return from their various international duties.

Indeed, Morten Wieghorst and Marc Rieper both went into bat for Jansen last night, speaking of their hopes that the coach stays at Parkhead, while club captain Tom Boyd called for an end to unnerving rumours over the Dutchman's future.

Danish midfielder Wieghorst said: ''Judging by the results and the way the team has developed this season, I don't see any reason why the club shouldn't want him to stay.''

His international team-mate Rieper added: ''As far as the players are concerned, we are very happy with Wim - and I think he is very happy coaching us, as well.''

Boyd re-enforced the view that further speculation over Jansen's future could harm their chances of the treble. He said: ''We want to keep ourselves focused. We are in a good position at the moment. We are in the semi-finals of the cup; we are top of the league, and we don't want anything to distract from that.''

What is for certain is that both Jansen, who claims it will have no effect in their cham-pion-ship chase, and Brown, who clearly worries about that possibility, can anticipate much angry resentment if the team lose their way now.