LUBOMIR Moravcik is revered, positively deified in fact, by Celtic fans these days. The Parkhead faithful have taken many skilful entertainers to their hearts over the years. But very few are held in same sort of affection as “Lubo”.

However, even the Slovakian playmaker witnessed the ugly side of the Glasgow club’s supporters during the four seasons that he spent in Scotland. Their extreme reaction, then, to the dip in form the team has experienced this term has come as no surprise to him.

He can still vividly recall the fallout to the infamous 3-1 defeat to second tier Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish Cup back in 2000 – a result that led to John Barnes being sacked as manager the following day.

“The fans stayed outside the stadium because they were not happy with the result,” said Moravcik via Zoom from his homeland yesterday. “It was not a good situation. Nobody was happy that evening.

“There was a deflection off me at one of their goals and it was hard for me. That was probably the toughest game of my career. It was a hard night for everyone. I’d never had that kind of experience before in my life, including everything that happened after the game.”

Yet, Moravcik feels that such scenes, which were witnessed once again following the Betfred Cup defeat to Ross County and the Premiership draw with St Johnstone, simply underline how deeply and passionately Celtic supporters feel about their beloved club.

“The Celtic fans are possibly one of the best in football,” he said. “But they can also be among the most emotional supporters after defeats or disappointments.

“For Celtic fans, though, the team is very important, whether things are good or bad. They always show their emotions. They can be angry, they can be extremely happy or sad.

“I understand it all, though, because I appreciate how proud the Celtic fans are of the team and how much they want the players to do well. For them, Celtic is very important in their lives. Maybe it’s not quite as deep a feeling for fans of other clubs.”

Moravcik, who is now vice-president of the Slovakian Football Association, is convinced the absence of Celtic supporters from Parkhead due to the coronavirus pandemic has, despite their unhappiness at performances and results, been detrimental to Scott Brown and his team mates in recent weeks.

“Everyone knows how strong the Celtic fans are and how difficult it is for opposition teams to play at Celtic Park,” he said. “Without fans it is a little bit boring.

“I was very lucky because I never had this bad situation. The fans were a big motivation to me when I played for Celtic. If you play football, you play for the fans and the atmosphere. I played to make the fans in the stands happy. If you are playing without fans it’s a disadvantage especially for Celtic players.”

Moravcik certainly recovered from that humiliation at the hands of Caley Thistle; he helped Celtic to win their first domestic treble since 1969 the following year after Martin O’Neill had taken over as manager.

He has no doubts that his old club, who have won their last two matches against Lille and Kilmarnock, can get back to their best, complete the quadruple treble with a win over Hearts in the rescheduled William Hill Scottish Cup final on Sunday and enjoy a successful campaign.

He is, too, confident that manager Neil Lennon, who he played alongside in the 2000/01 season, will be unfazed by the off-field unrest and widespread calls for his sacking and hopeful the Northern Irishman can survive in the high-profile position.

“Lenny has been in Celtic before and I’m sure he will get the team back on a good road,” he said.

“Lenny was a natural leader in the dressing room. Not because he was talking all the time. He wasn’t a guy to make jokes in the dressing room. It was because he was a hard-working player who never wanted to get beaten.

“That’s his character. I am not scared for him because I know he has a strong character. Every team needs a player like Lenny because he’s got a such a good mentality and a hard worker. Lenny was a very important guy to our team. He was really professional and a natural leader.”

Moravcik continued: “It’s always a problem at Celtic when you lose a few games and you are so many points off the top of the table. The European campaign was poor and it’s not good news. But after the last two games I hope Celtic are back and that the situation quietens down.

“It’s difficult to judge when somebody is your friend. I cross my fingers for him that the final will be a success and then he can go and win the next three games in the league. Win them all and it’s good preparation for the crucial game against Rangers.

“It’s a short target and what comes after that nobody knows. First of all they need to be successful on Sunday and continue this run. But the crucial moment is January 2. Celtic are not in Europe now and the target has to be to win the league title.”

Moravcik has sensed a shift in the attitude among the Celtic supporters after the Lille and Kilmarnock games and anticipates that victories over Hearts and Rangers in the coming weeks will get them firmly back onside entering the second half of what has been a turbulent season.

“I think the fans are happy again because Celtic have won two games,” he said. “Their reaction before is because they’ve been unhappy with results and performances. It is football, a lot is about emotion. Now, after the recent victories, I hope the fans can forgive and forget.”

Lubo Moravcik was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.