NEIL LENNON today came out firing with both barrels as snipers took pot shots at his team.
The Celtic boss totally refuted the suggestion his line-up for Saturday's 1-1 draw at Aberdeen, in which several stars were omitted and Mikael Lustig and Andre Blackman were handed debuts, showed he did not treat seriously the threat to his team's 20-game winning run, writes Ronnie Cully.
Lennon was even more scathing when informed that ESPN summariser, Craig Burley, had joined the misguided chorus claiming this season's SPL title is somehow devalued because of the serious problems crippling Rangers.
The Hoops boss insisted he was working with what he had available to him, and doing his best to protect tired players.
He said: "I didn't have any alternatives, did I?
"I could have started Cha Du-Ri, but we felt Mikael needed to play some football, and he was ready to play. Apart from that, I don't think we could have changed the team that much.
The 1-1 draw at Pittodrie allied to Ally McCoist's team losing 2-1 at home to Hearts means Celtic need just another seven points to secure their first title in four seasons, possibly even less if they avoid defeat at Ibrox in their next SPL game in a fortnight.
But Lennon could not hide his disappointment at leaving points behind in Aberdeen.
It irked him even more to hear some people reckoned his team selection – from which several regulars including Georgios Samaras, Adam Matthews and Victor Wanyama were omitted – indicated he thought the win was a formality.
He went on: "Looking at the bench, Cha might have been the only change we'd have made.
"Of the rest, we had Dylan McGeouch and Paddy McCourt, plus Glenn Loovens, who is just back after injury.
"Victor had just got back on Friday morning after travelling from Togo, so it would have been unfair to start him. We have to protect the players for the future.
"The worry would be that you play them after their games and the travelling, and they pull a hamstring or suffer a soft muscle injury through tiredness or dehydration, then they are out for weeks at a very important stage of the season.
"But you will see a different Celtic at Tannadice this weekend."
Lennon believes that his players have not received the credit they deserve for the way they have made the title all but theirs.
He reserved particular criticism for former Celt Burley, who used his platform working for ESPN to take a shot at Celtic's achievement.
Lennon said in his post-match interview: "I believe one of your commentators said again that our title is devalued.
"Really, they should come into our dressing room and say that to the players, or say it to our supporters.
"I find it very disrespectful you give these guys a platform to vent their spew all over the TV channels.
"They are talking absolute nonsense, and we will carry on regardless."