NEIL Lennon has been warned by Celtic medical staff that it is “only a matter of time” before one of the Parkhead club’s players contracts coronavirus and the entire squad has to be put into quarantine – and predicted the lockdown of Scottish football is set to be long-term.

Lennon admitted he was disappointed when he learned the SFA/SPFL Joint Response Group has suspended all domestic professional and grassroots football until further notice following a training session at Lennoxtown yesterday morning.

However, the Northern Irishman, who was preparing for a Ladbrokes Premiership game against Rangers at Ibrox tomorrow when he was told, stressed that he fully expected the governing bodies to make the decision and could understand the reasons for the drastic action.  

“It was inevitable,” he said. “There might have been pressure on the government, as well, to do it. The health and safety of everyone, not just the players but everyone, is paramount. So there was an air of inevitability about the announcement when it came.

“It’s just disappointing, obviously, with the nature of the game coming up. We were primed and ready for that. We’ve sent players home for a couple of days and will have a meeting on Monday with the powers that be at the club and take a steer from there, really.

“At the moment, there’s just nothing we can do. It’s unprecedented. I’ve never experienced anything like this before in my life or my career. But, while it’s disappointing, it’s probably the right call. I feel for all the clubs, I feel for all the players as well. I don’t know what the outcome is going to be for them financially as well.”

Lennon has been kept up to date on the escalating coronavirus crisis by Celtic physio Tim Williamson in recent days - and has been told to brace himself for one of his players being struck down by it in the coming weeks.

“The club are getting medical advice every day,” he said. “We’ve been briefed every morning. There are executive meetings every morning with information from the government or medical authorities, then that is passed on to us up here.

“But all week, even the last couple of weeks, you can see the change around the place. They’ve cut the visitors down. People coming in and out has been curtailed. There has a been a sensible, pragmatic approach to it. The thing is, we don’t know how far and wide this is going to go. But it’s been sort of business as normal.

“No-one here has been tested, no. No-one is showing symptoms. But it’s probably only a matter of time before somebody does pick it up. Then everybody will have to self-isolate.”

Lennon continued: “Our head physio has had executive briefings every morning and has come up and briefed us every morning on the progression of this virus. He thinks it’s only a matter of time before we get it, before somebody gets it. You have then just got to ride it out.

“If one of the players does get it then the rest of them will be quarantined and then it goes on and on.

“I don’t know what sort of affect that is going to have on the sporting calendar. We can only look after our own house. This thing is nowhere near its peak yet, from what I gather. Who knows when we will be able to return?

“The EPL have called (for games to be postponed until) April 4, but I’m not convinced that will be long enough. From what I gather, from the information we’ve been given about this virus, it will be another month or two before it reaches its peak.”

Lennon, whose team has built up a 13 point lead in the Premiership in 2020 and are poised to be crowned Scottish champions for the ninth year in a row, confessed that he was vexed the league meeting with Rangers this weekend would not go ahead as scheduled. 

“We found out during training,” he said. “We were ready and primed for the game, we’d done all of our homework, we were excited. How does it feel? Frustrating. But I think it’s for the best.  It will be a lot less chaotic than what we had planned. It will be a lot quieter, that’s for sure.”

Lennon has given the Celtic players two days off and is hopeful they will be able to return to training next week. However, he knows that, in a unique and rapidly-changing situation, there are no certainties. 

“It’s been business as usual up until today,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have a better idea on Monday, but I can’t guarantee it. No one can. There is no definite comeback time. I’ve never come across anything like this so I’m a bit tongue tied about what I can and can’t say on it.”