WHILE Neil Lennon would probably wish that the last six months had all been a bad dream, the Celtic manager is at least trying to take heed of the lessons from the experience. And chief among those is knowing who is really on his side.
The Celtic boss has taken flak from multiple directions as his team have stumbled through their tilt at a tenth consecutive title, with former teammates joining the chorus of critics lining up to stick the boot in.
Lennon will be the first to admit that such criticism has been merited at times given the poor fare being offered up by his side, but he seems unlikely to forgive or forget those who he feels have stepped over the line.
When asked what he had learned from the chastening experience of this torrid campaign for Celtic, he said: “You know who your friends are. It’s a test of you character, obviously, and you learn more about putting things into perspective, the impostors of winning and losing and finding that balance – not getting too high or too low.
“I’ve learned a little bit more about my players as well, about their characters and personalities. It’s not been a lot of fun for them at times, it’s been very difficult for them but we’re not the only ones affected by this.
“This is my first time managing during a pandemic so we’ve learned a lot from that, although I hope it won’t last for too much longer.”
A quirk of Celtic’s season to date is that their home form has been markedly poorer than their away form, something Lennon hopes can be arrested slightly when Motherwell come to Celtic Park this afternoon.
“I’ve been saying since the start of the season that it’s just not the same without the fans inside the stadium,” he said.
“We’re not exclusively affected by that – you can see it elsewhere in the UK and throughout Europe as well, although some clubs have adjusted to it better than we have.
“But it’s definitely been a factor for the players and I know that I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to play matches with none of them there.
“You should have self-motivation but at certain times the fans can really drive you on and that definitely happened during my career and I know that was the same for many others.
“It’s been a huge loss for us this season, there’s no question of that. The fact that we’ve scored more goals away from home speaks for itself.
“Liverpool have lost their last three home games after going unbeaten for 68 so maybe they’re suffering a little bit as well but there are many, many other examples.
“It’s not the whole reason but it’s a huge part of the explanation [for the poor season]. You analyse it and we need to do that for the players going forward if it’s going to be like this next season.
“We have to adjust and adapt a whole lot better than we have done this year if that’s the case.”
Lennon has been encouraged by manner of the win over Kilmarnock on Tuesday night, with his players finally looking to be enjoying themselves on the field.
“It was good to see,” he said. “We want them to enjoy their football and express themselves.
“I think some of them have found life in the pandemic very difficult. Sometimes you can get your release through your football.
“I’m hoping that’s going to be the case until the end of the season, that they play with a vigour and a real energy about them.
“There was a lot of quality on show on Tuesday night as well.”
Ryan Christie is a doubt for the game this afternoon after picking up a knock at Rugby Park, but otherwise, Celtic have no fresh injury concerns.