Davie Hay: Onwards and upwards for Lennon at Celtic

I believe Celtic and Neil Lennon deserve great credit for wrapping up their third consecutive league championship in such emphatic fashion at Partick Thistle on Wednesday.

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Neil Lennon and his backroom team of Johan Mjallby and Garry Parker deserve praise
Neil Lennon and his backroom team of Johan Mjallby and Garry Parker deserve praise

Perhaps the first-half performance wasn't the best at Firhill but Celtic came out with all guns blazing in the second period and won the title in a style entirely appropriate for dominant champions.

Some people may say that this triumph is devalued, like the last one, by the absence of Rangers, but you can only beat what is in front of you.

What people must take into account is that Celtic have built their dominance on the back of being a very prudent football club in terms of finance off the field of play as well as a well-managed, attacking and entertaining one on it.

The statistics for me underline just how dominant Celtic have been this season.

They secured their third Scottish title in a row with seven games to spare to become the quickest winners of the Scottish top tier since Rangers in 1928/29.

Neil can rightly be very proud of having lost just once in 30 league games so far this season.

He has not sacrificed his side's style of football, yet they still have an impressive goal tally and clean-sheet record en route to being crowned champions for the 45th time.

Perhaps the most interesting comment the manager made in the aftermath of this title triumph was when he said that Celtic had "really stamped our authority on the game in Scotland and we want to take it further. We want to take it into Europe."

You always want to see just how hungry any manager is to build and take things on from a championship success.

For me that was a blatant statement of intent and one in which the Celtic manager has served notice that he still believes he has plenty to do with the club at home and abroad.

Interestingly enough Aberdeen have been the team which have provided a bit of a speed bump on Celtic's charge to the title.

It would be great if Derek McInnes' side could really mount a challenge in league terms next season, and time will tell if that is possible.

Certainly it would be good for the domestic game if that did materialise.

But right now, as the dust settles on Wednesday night's title success, Neil and his coaching staff will already be thinking about the Champions League qualifiers this summer.

While the league must always be the priority over the course of a campaign, the first month of the season next time around will be huge for the club.

Making the group stage is so important in so many ways for Celtic, not just financially.

It is the best way to keep your top players and also to attract new ones. But with the experience of another championship and Champions League campaign behind him, Neil will also take on that challenge having learned some learned valuable lessons.

It is a great thing for the club that they have a young manager who is still, clearly, so passionate about Celtic.

They have a man who has also now amassed a considerable amount of experience in terms of the top European level to take Celtic forward again.

So in overview I think that Neil, the Celtic board and everyone connected with the club can rightly be proud of what they have achieved this season.

One thing is for sure: there will be a hell of a party when Ross County visit Parkhead on Saturday.


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