NEIL LENNON has derided any talk of "tainted'' titles after Celtic beat Rangers 3-0 to stretch their lead to 21 points at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League table.

Goals by Charlie Mulgrew, Kris Commons and Gary Hooper gave Celtic the points that ensured that the Parkhead club would have been champions even had Rangers not been deducted 10 points for entering administration.

Lennon, aware of criticism from former Old Firm players Mark Hateley and Craig Burley over the validity of the title success, said pointedly: "The only way it is tainted is if you have won it and you cheated to win it and we have done nothing wrong. We have played the best football and scored the most goals, conceded the fewest goals and have the best disciplinary record in the league, so we are worthy champions."

Their facile victory came ahead of today's SPL meeting which could set the sanctions for Rangers entering the top flight as a newco or starting next season as a club still in administration. The 12 clubs will vote on resolutions that include increasing the points penalty on a club that becomes a newco to 15 points or a third of the club's points total in the previous season. There is also a proposal to slash a newco's SPL payments by 75% for three seasons

Ally McCoist, the Rangers manager, who has appealed against last week's decision by the Scottish Football Association to impose a 12-month ban on Rangers signing players and fines totalling £160,000 for breaching regulations, called last night for a "fair'' decision from the SPL.

McCoist said: "The outcome might hurt Rangers but it could possibly hurt Scottish football just as much, if not more, and that is something that will obviously concern everybody."

He added: "I don't think for a minute that they should go lightly on us. We should receive a justified punishment. If they feel we should be punished then I hope it will be a fair one. It's not a fair or ideal world but I believe that Rangers and Celtic are different. I might get criticised for saying that but if you take a step back, they are different in terms of the impact they have on Scottish football.

"Now I can understand supporters up and down the country who don't support the Old Firm will say that is rubbish. In an ideal world, it is a totally wrong statement but it's not an ideal world and I believe that it is a correct statement.

"They might make a decision that we are not happy with again, and we might disagree with that, but we will take it on the chin."

Asked if the Old Firm should be treated differently, Lennon disagreed with McCoist's view. "No. Not if you break the rules, not if you break the laws of football. There is an issue of sporting integrity and moral sporting integrity as well," he said.

"I understand Ally's point to a certain extent but if you have flouted the laws in the capacity that they have then the powers-that-be will punish you accordingly. If you break the rules thenyou should expect to be punished."

However, he added: "It is not my place to talk about Rangers, it's not my place to talk about the outcome of whatever sanctions they are going to get.''

Lennon, meanwhile, was delighted by the performance of his players, criticising claims that his team were "bottle merchants''.

The Celtic manager said: "People have thrown this accusation that we can't handle the big games. Well, all those accusations have been diminished today. We have lost one game in the league since October. You guys [journalists] set a really high standard if you think we are bottle merchants.''

Lennon, who watched the game from the Celtic Park stand as he completed a two-match touchline ban, continued: "We were brilliant from start to finish. Once we found our feet in the game, we were magnificent. I am very proud of the team, I am very proud of the way they played and passed it, three great goals.''

He adWe played better than them today and proved to be the champions. It's just been a good day for the club and the supporters.''

The Celtic manager also praised the fans who attended the match. "I've got to say both sets of supporters today were fantastic,'' he said. 'There was a lot of humour going around and that's what we want to see, we don't want to see the nastiness. Both sets of supporters were a credit to their clubs."