A week used to be regarded as a short, sharp shock in politics.

It has nothing on the football world.

Last Saturday night Neil Lennon was riding the crest of a wave after Celtic got off to the best start to a league campaign in 48 years. With a European tie tilted in Celtic’s favour and the Parkhead side scoring goals with abandon, those who had been frothing at the mouth when Lennon was given the job on a permanent basis after the Scottish Cup final in May had little to bump their gums about.

By Tuesday night they had shouted themselves hoarse, their rancour accentuated by an ‘I-told-you-so’ lament.

But if trial by social media has Lennon in the dock, it has the board who appointed him tried and sentenced. Little underlines the fragility of anyone’s position at Celtic than a failure to clinch Champions League football.


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The debate around both has been predictable and knee-jerk but what is clear are a number of unpalatable truths for Celtic; their defeat and the lack of Champions League finances for the second year in succession will have given Rangers, whose early start to the season has offered evidence of a team on the up, a monumental lift.

In the week in which the Parkhead side banked £25million for the transfer of Kieran Tierney to Arsenal after a summer of protracted negotiations, they lost out on a bounty of at least £30m by their failure to take part in Europe’s premier competition. If it comes to a league title that is a little close for comfort in January, Celtic’s ability to go out and bring in reinforcements to kick them on has been compromised by what happened this week.

And not only that, but it has put Lennon under intense pressure before the season is up and running.

The first game against Rangers is at Ibrox next weekend with all the early portents of the season pointing to these fixtures determining just who comes out on top.

Lennon will already know that he cannot afford a result or a performance as meek and passive as the one which Celtic produced at Ibrox at the end of last season. Lennon has stayed in the same area of Glasgow since he moved to Celtic as a player in December 2000. He lives and moves within the city and always has done; he is neither deaf nor blind to the mood of the support and will be keenly aware that knives have been sharpened for him in certain quarters.

In the immediate aftermath of Tuesday night’s defeat Lennon acknowledged that no Champions League football would affect his budget between now and the closure of the window, a statement that brought forth a fresh wave of outrage on social media.


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Celtic have money in the bank. And despite popular mythology, they have spent plenty. As a PLC, their accounts are transparent. Legally they can be nothing else. So operating costs and a wage bill peaking at £60m last season would suggest that for all the finger-pointing, accusations of a parsimonious board are inaccurate.

But when there is a £7m defender and a £3m left-back on the bench, it is fair to ask if the money has been spent wisely.

And, ultimately, the biggest lesson that Celtic have failed to heed as they have failed to secure Champions League football four times in their last six attempts, is that the January transfer window sets the foundations for what the club do in July and August.

It is too late at this stage of the season to be bedding in players for what are the biggest games of the season.

Last January the spine of Celtic’s business was done in loan deals; Timothy Weah. Oli Burke. Players who were never going to be hanging around for long given the finances involved. Vakoun Issouf Bayo has flitted in and out of the first team without looking like nailing down a regular place.

It is myopic to go into the summer still needing to bolster when the Champions League qualifiers define the tone for the season.

That Arsenal were seriously courting Tierney was not news. Not when their scouts had watched him so often.

Mikael Lustig moving on was inevitable when the decision was made for just the one year he was being offered while Dedryck Boyata’s cards were put on the table this time 12 months ago. Filip Benkovic was always on the way back to Leicester. Major surgery was always going to be required on Celtic’s backline this summer.


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The biggest issue was not the players who were looking at a future elsewhere but a head of recruitment who was waiting it out.

Getting in a permanent and astute head of scouting and recruitment is as important as any signing that Celtic will make this summer.

And another thing...

The litmus test for Alfredo Morelos will be the game at Ibrox against Celtic next weekend.

The Colombian has had an impressive start to the season and all the indications are that he has taken on board the issues that were laid bare last term.

But his temper is yet to be tested when under pressure. It will be interesting to see just what developments he has made on the park in terms of keeping it together when there is a bit of needle.

Morelos has nine goals already this season, an impressive return in anyone’s book. Goalscorers will always be at a premium and teams will always pay the big bucks for a guy who guarantees 20 goals a season.

If the 23-year-old can prove his new-found maturity over the stretch of the season then it’s fair to suggest his suitors may not have the doubts they did this summer.

In any case, with Morelos banging in goals and Rangers looking more balanced than they have in recent seasons, the campaign already has the look of a two-horse race this season with a familiar pattern emerging in the league table.