THE chance to etch your name into Celtic history is one that doesn’t present itself all that often, and the opportunity to do so in such a way that was presented to the current squad at the start of this season has only ever come along once before.
That the 10-in-a-row dream seems to have all-but slipped through their fingers it hard enough for Neil Lennon to wrap his head around, but what the Celtic manager truly can’t fathom as someone steeped in the traditions of the club, is that there is a sizeable faction within his who simply didn’t seem to care that much.
The abject failures of Celtic this season have many fathers, but Lennon puts at least part of the blame for their under-performance at the feet of those players he called out after their early Champions League exit for their desire to leave the club.
When asked if those unsettled players who remain at Celtic had, in his estimation, contributed to his team’s poor form over the course of the season, Lennon said: “Yes, I think I made that clear after the Ferencvaros game and I don’t think things have changed that much since then.
“I would say [it’s] one of the elements, yeah.
“It’s different times from when I was a player. The landscape in UK football and bigger clubs around Europe, the disparity in what we can pay and these clubs can pay has grown and grown and grown.
“The excitement that Celtic brings, the chance to win trophies and compete in Europe and play on a regular basis in front of a passionate crowd is something that other clubs cannot offer, but sometimes money talks and these guys want to go.
“I am not convinced all the time they progress their careers, but certainly the might be financially better off.”
One of those players, Jeremie Frimpong, was jettisoned during the week, with a decent chunk of change coming the other way from Bayer Leverkusen even when Manchester City’s sizeable sell-on clause is factored in. It doesn’t take Alan Turing to decode Lennon’s intent to move on a few others soon, and he is already planning replacements.
“We are hoping to have a couple of signings done within the next couple of days,” he said.
“I think we are close to one or two so there is no question that work is ongoing and then again it will be prominent in the summer when we are looking to bring players in.
“We have already sold a player for a lot of money and we felt that was a good deal for the club.
“So we need to replace Jeremie and we are trying to do that before the window closes.”
Signing targets, summer plans? For a manager seemingly destined in the eyes of many to be following chief executive Peter Lawwell out of the club at the end of the season, this is all sounding a lot like business as usual.
And as far as Lennon is concerned, he is free to press on with those plans, in as far as any manager can predict what players may still be around come the start of the next campaign.
“You are never clear because you never know what’s happening,” he said. “You have an idea, you have a plan.
“The Frimpong deal was running but it was never guaranteed we would get the deal we wanted. In the end we did, and it’s really good business from our point of view and Jerry wants to continue his football elsewhere, so that might be the case for a lot of players.
“But a lot of these things are protracted and run and run, there’s a few bumps and up and downs along the way, it’s never seamless.
“I think there will be a rebuild of some capacity, players who are coming to the ends of their contracts may be looking to move on and the club may be looking to move them on.
“Then obviously loan players will be going back. Whether we investigate loaning them again is a discussion for the summer but there will be changes in the summer, there is no question of that.
“The only thing that concerns me is how the market is going to be. This is January and it is very quiet and you are concerned that it might be the same again in the summer because we don’t know where clubs are going to be if and when the pandemic passes, or gets better.
“We don’t know how financially strong clubs are going to be or even how our own position is going to look in the summer.
“In terms of rebuilding the squad that is always an exciting project to take on, to bring in new blood and give the squad that extra impetus and freshness which does good for everybody.”