BEER gardens are open, conspiracy theories abound over the SPFL Premiership fixture list before a ball has even been kicked in anger, and our football clubs are in the middle of an almighty civil war. Life might just be slowly getting back to normal after all.

And yet, even as the prospect of crowds being allowed into matches by the time the Old Firm face off for the first time in mid-October is being mooted, next season will very definitely kick off in surreal circumstances.

The backdrop of empty stadia though will belie just what is at stake next term, with Celtic priming themselves for a chance to make history, and Rangers and the rest doing whatever they can to deny them that honour.

One can only hope, as Celtic manager Neil Lennon does, that crowds could be in place for that first Old Firm fixture, so that one of the most significant seasons in our game’s history is played out to the din of raucous crowds befitting its importance.

Either way though, the enormity of what is about to take place is not lost on Lennon, who – while trying to keep his players’ feet on the ground – has left his men in no doubt that a ‘monumental’ campaign lies in store.

"We're very excited,” Lennon told Sky Sports News. “We've got to just take it as the next title really.

"For some of the players that will come it will be the first, for some it will be the 10th, but we have to keep a balance and just say 'look this is the next challenge to win'.

"It's great to have the players back the last few weeks and preparations have been going well. It’s a big season for us domestically and obviously on the European front as well.

“When teams come to play us, they subconsciously raise their game and try to become far more difficult to beat.

“We’re looking to improve as individuals and as a group, that’s the incentive for us and there’s huge motivation for the players going into this season on the domestic front. We have Champions League qualifiers to look forward to in August and that’ll be a big push for us from our point of view to try and qualify for that.

“It will be difficult playing without supporters and that’s something we’ll have to adapt to very quickly.

“There is going to be a lot of hype surrounding it. It is monumental what we’re going for, but we can’t let it distract us from actually playing the games and not look too far ahead.”

Lennon though must look ahead, and try to assess how the squad he currently has at his disposal will cope with the demands that lie ahead, and more importantly, how they are equipped to succeed in reaching the lofty goals that will be set by both the manager and the supporters.

That’s why he is looking forward to taking his side to the continent to give them a taste of the match setting later this month for the first time since a win over St Mirren back in March.

“There’s a new norm and it’s something we’ve been preparing for over the last few weeks,” he said. “You never really know where you are until the games start but I think, in terms of the pre-season games next week, we’ll have a fair idea of what we need to do to improve the team for the start of the season.

“We’re going to France next week where we have some big pre-season games lined up. That’ll give us an indication of where we are as a squad.”

The extended pre-season period in Scotland may be something of a blessing in dealing with the rigours of the fixture list, particularly as the winter break has been scrapped for next season, but it has also somewhat handicapped Celtic’s search for new talent to supplement their existing group of players.

"A lot of [the scouting] is being done with analysis and stats, whereas ideally you'd like to see a player and what their strengths and weaknesses are,” Lennon explained.

"But that's the only difference and there's been a mountain of work done from the recruitment side of things.

"We've got Mo Elyounoussi back which is a big plus for us so there's a continuity there and we'll look to add one or two to the group.”

Celtic will start their campaign with a home match against Hamilton Academical on Sunday August 2nd, while the absence of a winter break allows for the New Year Old Firm derby to take place on January 2nd.