IT may not have been the way he ideally wanted to cement his place among Celtic’s managerial greats, but there is no doubt that is exactly where Neil Lennon now finds himself.

Yesterday’s confirmation from the SPFL that the Premiership season had finally been declared saw Celtic extend their run of championships to a record-equalling nine for the second time in their history, setting them up for a tilt at the as-yet elusive tenth consecutive title next season.

It also put Lennon himself onto five league triumphs as a Celtic manager, a total that has him ahead of some of the most illustrious figures in the club’s history. By measure of titles won, in fact, he is now ahead of Billy McNeill and behind only the legendary Willie Maley on 16 and Jock Stein on 10. Heady company indeed. Not that he is satisfied to simply be sharing that rarefied air.

“To be in that pantheon of managers is fantastic,” said Lennon. “But I want more. I don’t want to stop now.

“I’m 48 – still relatively young. I’ve still got a lot to learn and a lot to achieve. I’ve got a lot of incentives and targets.

“It’s a pressure job. At the minute I’m really missing it. I’m missing the players and supporters. Most of all I’m missing the football and the day to day interaction.

“I don’t want to stop now. I want to look back on my career as I did as a player and say that was pretty good.

“I’ve been given this gift of managing the club for the second time. It’s a privilege.

“I wouldn’t underestimate this season. The pressure was immense taking over from Brendan (Rodgers). We won everything domestically, so it was important for me to stay focused.

“I’ve got a great backroom team. The work ethic and professionalism rubs off on the players. You inherit that and try to make out work.

“It’s been really satisfying because I’ve come in on my own and I’ve taken it on.

“These guys have worked with me and they’ve been absolutely amazing.”

Still, with Scottish football being as it is, or perhaps more pertinently, the footballing landscape in Glasgow being as it is, there will no doubt be frequent references in years to come of this being a tainted title due to the season being prematurely curtailed.

Lennon is sanguine about the prospect of such jibes, and asserts that deep down, not even the biggest Rangers supporter truly believed they would catch their rivals. If anything, Lennon says that the 13-point gap would only have increased had the season been played to its natural conclusion.

“That’s what we were looking to do,” he said. “We weren’t looking to relax. We couldn’t anyway because we’d the semi-final with Aberdeen in our thoughts as well. We had to stay on it and stay focused because we were trying to get a fourth Treble. So, the focus, the concentration and the intensity were all there.

“After the St Mirren game we were due to play Rangers at Ibrox and we were right on it for that as well. We were all looking forward to that. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see out the season the way we’d have liked.

“This gets overlooked – we are the ones who have missed out a lot even from a football perspective in terms of going for a Treble, playing in the semi and eventually winning the league in front of our own supporters.

“I can’t stop people from trying to put a negative spin on what we were achieving. But I don’t think anyone could have not foreseen us winning the league with the way we were playing, the form and consistency we were showing.

“No one could keep up with us. We just kept applying the pressure week in week out and eventually all the other teams around us faded away.”

Indeed, Lennon has been ignoring the clamour from their very own noisy neighbours ever since Rangers celebrated their win at Celtic Park in late December.

“That wasn’t really much [of a motivation],” he said. “You tend to blank out the nonsense that goes around it because it’s not real. It was only one win or one defeat from our point of view.

“When we lost to Livingston, we bounced back with a great run of wins. I was quite confident we’d do the same again.

“I didn’t realise how well we would bounce back, though. But bounce back we did. It was a spectacular reaction to the point where we opened up a 13-point lead.

“People were asking me in October if I thought the league would go to goal difference. I said that I didn’t have a crystal ball but that I hoped it wouldn’t.

“By the time the league was curtailed, we were 13 clear with a 25 better goal difference. People take that for granted from this team, but they are the one who have got to go out and play under the pressure and scrutiny.

“A lot of people were hoping they’d trip up, but they just refused to let that happen. Their mentality is unbelievable.”

After such exertions would normally come the exultations, but Celtic’s celebrations will be limited to their individual living rooms. It is somewhat comforting to know that even high-profile footballing figures will be joining the majority of the general public in embracing virtual drinking sessions during this period of lockdown.

“There will probably be a few Zoom calls and I dare say I’ll have a few drinks in the house,” said Lennon.

“I’d love to be with my staff and my players and hopefully sooner rather than later we will get together and enjoy what we’ve achieved.

“When I look back on this season, it’s probably my best as a manager in terms of where we are.

“What we achieved in Europe- going to Lazio and doing the double over them given how strong they were in Serie A, you see Rennes finishing third in the French league.

“We came out of a really strong group by topping it. I think there’s more to come from this team.

“We’ll keep pushing them.”