THE passing of the years has done little to diminish Neil Lennon's memory.

Tuesday marks the 10th anniversary of Celtic's appearance in the UEFA Cup final but, given the clarity with which Lennon can recount passages of play, it is as if he is talking about a match from just a few days ago. Celtic may have lost to Porto in that epic final but the Seville experience is one that has endured for all who featured in it.

Lennon was not the Celtic manager then, of course, but a key component in a team who rebounded from the disappointment of losing to Basle in the Champions League qualifiers to make the most of their second chance. The run to the final was one that defied expectations at every stage. It became known as the V for Victory campaign, one where every vanquished opponent had the letter somewhere in their name: Suduva, Blackburn Rovers, Celta Vigo, VfB Stuttgart, Liverpool and Boavista. There is no V in Porto, of course, but the venue for the final was the Spanish city of Seville, so that kept the connection going.

Porto, though, would be the one team Celtic could not get the better of. Coached by Jose Mourinho, they would win the Champions League the following season, proving Martin O'Neill's side had been beaten by a stellar outfit. It would take extra-time before Porto would eventually see off Celtic, lifting the trophy after a 3-2 victory but finding little favour among neutral observers for their gamesmanship and play-acting.

The result, and the manner in which it was achieved, took the shine off an otherwise memorable campaign but Lennon still glows at the memory. "I look back on it with immense pride," he said. It's always tinged with a huge feeling of disappointment as well; it was the one that got away. I felt we played well against a very strong team. But, you could see it in the game itself, when Henrik [Larsson] got the second we had the upper hand then. We didn't play as well as we could've first half. But in the second we were excellent. On reflection, every goal [we lost] could've been avoided. At 2-2, I thought there was only one team who would win it.

"But I think the referee had a really poor game. I remember before Bobo [Balde] got sent off there was a really bad challenge on Henrik that was overlooked. The ref didn't see it. It was a clear free-kick on the edge of their box. I think it was [Ricardo] Carvalho went through the back of him, but the ref played on. I'm not saying that changed the flow of the game because they never looked like scoring. The third goal, a lot of people will say Rab [Douglas] missed the ball, but there was still a lot of work to be done by Derlei before he scored and we should've defended that situation a lot better.

"I don't want to take the gloss from something that was a really good achievement. But you go from being a very good team to a great team if you win it. Things went against us in extra time but it was a great achievement getting there and one that will live with me forever."

A decade has passed without Celtic reaching another European final but Lennon is convinced it will happen again. Their performances in the Champions League, combined with some of the names to have reached the Europa League final of late imbues him with hope.

"Could Celtic reach another final? No question about it. We had seven wins in the Champions League this year, we won away from home, we got 10 points and got out the group. The foundations are there. And look at some of the other clubs who have made it all the way; Fulham made it, Middlesbrough made it. There were two very good teams in the final this year [Benfica and Chelsea] but look at Basle making the semi-final and I don't think we're too far away from matching that or even bettering it."

Benfica, of course, only dropped into the Europa League after finishing third in Celtic's Champions League group, but Lennon would not have swapped his team's subsequent last-16 tie against Juventus for a place in that final.

"Not in a million years," he said. "I'm not sure the Europa League has the same gravitas as it once had, or the UEFA Cup, whatever you want to call it. The Champions League is the blue riband event by a long way. However, the Europa League sort of gathers momentum once you start getting to the quarter-finals, then semi-finals, then the final.

"If we'd come third in the group, people might've said we would then have a great chance of winning the Europa League. But there's no guarantee of that."