IT was a polished performance from a man at ease with his position, and only once did Neil Lennon look weary during his protracted media duties last week.

It happened when he mentioned that he would like to start recruiting new players by the time his Celtic squad reconvene for training at Lennoxtown on June 20.

June 20? "Yes, June 20," he replied, suddenly looking like he could do with a break.

Last season went so smoothly, leaving Lennon in such a position of strength and so satisfied in his role – he admits it would be a "massive wrench" to leave Parkhead for brighter lights – that it would be easy to forget Celtic's next competitive game in five-and-a-half weeks' time will be season-defining, as will the five subsequent Champ-ions League qualifying legs the club must negotiate (if they get that many) to keep their manager in his present contented state.

Asked to underline his ambitions for the club at the launch event for the August 10 "Dublin Decider" friendly with Liverpool, he said: "I'd like us to be consistently in the group stages of the Champions League and that's very difficult because the coefficient works against us.

"Last year we had two qualifiers, this year we have three and they're very fraught because they're basically your first competitive games and a hell of a lot hinges on them.

"But that's really where I'd like us to be – getting to the group stages again would be a huge shot in the arm for our season going forward. And obviously domestically we want to be the dominant force.

"It won't be long before Rangers come back and that will give the Scottish game an edge again, but in the short term we would like to be consistently in the group stages again."

It doesn't take much ingenuity to work out why Lennon, for all that he is at ease with the stability of his employment, hasn't gone on holiday.

How could he recline on a lilo reading a book when he has to prepare his players for their attempt to reach the world's leading club competition next month?

"We had our fingers burned before. Bratislava, Basle. They're dangerous games. The most pressure I felt last season in any game was the Helsingborgs game," he said.

"There was so much riding on it. This year the pressure was alleviated a little bit because of the run we had last year but again, [due to] what we achieved, the expectation becomes that little bit higher from outside influences.

"We'll be hoping to add new faces to the squad that will hopefully make us better."