NEIL LENNON travelled to Germany and Holland in full knowledge he needed to add a central defender and a striker to his starting XI if he was to head into the new season with peace of mind.
He has returned to Glasgow without either addition, but with even more proof they are essential if the progress he has made with the squad he has re-shaped since taking over from Tony Mowbray two years ago is to continue.
With the SPL championship already considered to be remaining at Parkhead for the foreseeable future, the next target has to be returning to the Group Stage of the Champions League.
Lennon will not merely be content to negotiate the two qualification rounds which stand between his team and that lucrative level, he wants the team he takes there to be competitive.
They showed they have the potential when they went toe-to-toe with Atletico Madrid, Udinese and Rennes in last season's Europa Cup.
But, as Ajax confirmed with their 4-0 dismantling of Celtic in Amsterdam on Saturday, the calibre of teams who have direct access to the Champions League and await would-be qualifiers such as the Scottish champions is much, much higher.
A keen student of the European game, Lennon is well aware of that. Likewise, he is acutely aware the signing deadline for the third qualifying round, in which they will play HJK Helsinki – unless KR Reykjavik perform a miracle to reverse their first leg defeat when the teams meet again in Iceland on Wednesday, a match Lennon hopes to watch for himself – falls at midnight on Thursday.
There is provision for one more player to be registered up to 24 hours before the first leg, which will take place on July 31 or August 1.
For the knockout round, the deadline is August 13, again with the option to sign one more player 24 hours before the first leg on August 21/22, so the clock is ticking.
The frustration for Lennon remains the need to secure the sale of at least one player to bankroll his own signings.
The manager has accepted that, with income set to fall as a consequence of Rangers' removal from the SPL, his overheads have also had to be reduced.
Lennon made significant concessions on this front when he agreed to the release of several players at the end of last season, some, like Glenn Loovens, on wages which were among the highest on the payroll.
However, while that will save several million over the course of this year and beyond, a lump sum deposited in the club's accounts right now is what the manager needs to get the ball rolling in terms of making additions to his squad.
Ki Sung-Yueng's involvement in the Olympics appears to have stalled his anticipated £7million sale to QPR.
While Lennon has been forced to wait before splashing the cash, targets including central defender Matt Mills and midfielder Kim Bo-Kyung, have been snapped up by other clubs.
Former Southampton, Manchester City, Reading and Nottingham Forest defender Mills would have offered the kind of attributes Lennon knows he needs if he is to get his defence playing the way he wants.
He tried fielding a back three against Ajax, but Thomas Rogne, Victor Wanyama and Charlie Mulgrew were ripped asunder by the Eredivise champions whose movement and pace met little resistance.
Three goals in a 14-minute blitz in the first half confirmed to Lennon he had got his tactics wrong, and he hastily re-organised his personnel into a flat back four, which coped marginally better until Mulgrew got red-carded for hand ball midway through the second half, allowing Ajax to extend their lead from the spot.
Kelvin Wilson was one of the men to come on and shore things up, but his future as a starter must now be in doubt after the man who arrived on a Bosman last summer failed to get much game time in Germany and Holland.
The need for a dominating central defender, who can organise those around him and in front of him, is more pressing than ever before.
At the other end, Gary Hooper and Anthony Stokes both got on the scoresheet against Vfr Aalen, the only match Celtic won on this tour.
But, more significantly, it was the only game in which the Hoops found the net, and the lack of shots on target over the four games has to be a worry for Lennon.
Some creativity from midfield would help the strikers, and the game time enjoyed by James Forrest – his first action since damaging an ankle in the League Cup Final in March – is the biggest bonus to come out of the pre-season tour.
Beram Kayal also got back into action, having been sidelined with an ankle injury since the end of December.
But the Israeli international returned to Glasgow yesterday with his left ankle still in a protective boot after his injury hoodoo struck again.
Paddy McCourt – who could have provided the guile to set up chances for Hooper, Stokes and back up strikers Daryl Muprhy and Mo Bangura – also limped onto the bench occupied by players not taking part in the game at the Amsterdam ArenA on Saturday night, and Lennon will hope both can recover in time to play against Norwich tomorrow or Inter Milan on Saturday.
Georgios Samaras will also be targeting these games. He is the last of the players who returned late from international action in the summer to resume playing for the club, and his absence has been sorely missed as there has been little height for Fraser Forster to aim at with goal kicks, while defenders have missed his ability to provide respite by taking the ball upfield.
Lennon remains confident the fitness and sharpness gained on the tour is taking his squad to where they need to be.
But without the addition of a couple of new faces in key positions, the question remains if they can get to where they ultimately want to be.