IF anyone is well placed to withstand that flak that flies in the vicinity of Parkhead after Celtic have suffered a disappointing result or are going through a poor run of form it is Neil Lennon.

The Northern Irishman has endured more than anyone during the many years he has spent at the Glasgow club as both a player and a manager.

So when Lennon expresses his astonishment and incredulity at the level of abuse and criticism that he and his players have been subjected to in the wake of their three game winless run – and there have even been calls for him to be sacked in some quarters - you know the fallout has reached ridiculous levels.

“It’s nonsense,” he said yesterday as he prepared for the Europa League match against Lille in France tomorrow. “It’s completely over the top. This knee jerk reaction stuff? You need to get used to it. But it is well over the top.”

Lennon accepts that Celtic’s showing in the 2-0 loss to Rangers was poor and knows they could have performed better in both the 3-1 defeat to AC Milan and 3-3 draw with Aberdeen.

But the fact there are mitigating circumstances – Nir Bitton, Ryan Christie, Odsonne Edouard and Hatem Elhamed have all ruled out by positive coronavirus tests and Christopher Jullien and James Forrest have been injured - which have been ignored irks him.

That former professionals, including players who worked under him in the past, have joined in with the frenzy has particularly saddened him. “Some of our ex-players haven’t covered themselves in glory,” he said.

One of those he was referring to is Kris Commons. The one-time Celtic playmaker has been scathing about the contribution of Republic of Ireland centre half Shane Duffy and has called for him to be dropped. Lennon feels he has a short memory.

“In Kris’s second season for Celtic he hardly kicked a ball,” he said. “Now he’s digging out players and personally calling them out, which I think is wrong. We all go through difficult times as players, be it at Celtic or anywhere else. I’m just very disappointed, very disappointed.”

A manager who has been accused of being far too volatile a presence on the touchline in the past has been condemned for not being animated enough in recent days. That has summed up the absurdity of tit all for Lennon.

“It’s absolute nonsense,” he said. “You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. People are just looking for things that aren’t there. My demeanour since coming back 18 months ago has not changed one bit.”

Lennon concedes the huge importance of retaining the Premiership the 2020/21 campaign – Celtic are bidding to become the first team in Scottish football history to win 10 consecutive titles - may be a factor in the extreme reaction to the dip in form.

“It requires some perspective,” he said. “I don’t know how people are feeling about it. There’s a lot of hysteria around, which we can’t control. I can’t control what the fans think. What I can control is what we do on the training ground and what we do in the games.”

Lennon has made protecting his players from the vitriol the slump - which has left them six points adrift of their city rivals, who have played a game more, in the Premiership and in second bottom spot in their Europa League group - has provoked his priority in recent days.

He is, though, relaxed about the situation and confident Scott Brown, who is poised to be restored the starting line-up in the Group H match in the Stade Pierre-Mauroy tomorrow after being rested at the weekend, and his team mates will bounce back.

“I do think they are getting scrutinised to the nth degree,” he said. “Some of the individual criticism is unpalatable. I’ve been through a lot worse than this, a lot worse. Be it either as a player or as a manager. I’m fine.

“But it’s my job to protect them from that and show trust in them. And I do trust them. They are a brilliant bunch of boys. They have proved themselves time and time again. We are only in October. We have got a lot of work to do, but that is no different to any other season really.

"It hasn’t been great this week, it’s been a tough week for us. But we are entitled to a tough week now and again. It’s how we react to that in a positive manner that counts.”

Lennon knows there is a simple way to silence the snipers – start winning games again – and he saw enough in the second-half display against Milan and in the game with Aberdeen to suggest Celtic are ready to turn a corner.

“This is nothing compared to the situation I found myself back in 2011,” he said. “We had three defeats before the Kilmarnock game (which Celtic drew 3-3 after trailing 3-0 at half-time) and were well behind in the league. We managed to turn it around and go on a really good run.

“I’m not missing the fact we are not in blistering form at the minute – I know that. But I think it will come. I think we will get better as the season goes on. But I have been under a lot more pressure on the football side of things than this.”

Lennon added: “If we’d seen out Sunday’s game and instead of having conceded a last-minute equaliser then we’d have had exactly the same points total as we had at the same stage last year and that was a fantastic season,” he said.

“Not every season is the same, of course. You’re always trying to improve but that’s not always possible. We’re two points behind where we were last time out so I think we’re all right. We’re just trying to stay as focused as we possibly can and trying to enjoy it as well because there were a lot of good things which came out of Sunday’s game.

“Everybody picks up on the negatives, but there were a lot of good things on Sunday as well. The players showed plenty of good character to come back from 1-0 down. When we were 2-1 down we got it to 3-2. It would have been a great win under the circumstances, but we had to settle for a point. There is no panic here, no hysteria here. We are actually looking forward to the games.

“When we went into the international break we had won eight games in a row and kept four clean sheets. What happened afterwards was the squad was disrupted and a little bit disjointed and we were playing good teams. But I have seen an improvement in their performances as we have gone along. Players are coming back, players are getting fitter. We have got a lot to look forward to.”