AS hard as Neil Lennon is working to keep the minds of his players off the Champions League and on defending the championship which gives them the opportunity to compete against Europe's elite, it appears to be a losing battle.

Sure, the travelling and exertions associated with playing midweek against their tough Group G opponents is having an effect.

However, with only a third of the season gone, and considering how young the vast majority of the squad are, can this really be a reason for their below-par performances in domestic games?

The real problem is one of focus, or lack of. It's hard to get away from the belief that, without Rangers to push them, the players are in a mind-set whereby they think they can pick up the pace when the Champions League business is completed.

That is dangerous, and is what the manager has to change more so than tactics or personnel.


NEIL LENNON has gone out of his way to protect his players when they have failed to produce the goods in the SPL this season.

While the Champions League performances have been highly impressive and the club are still top of the table, there can be no denying they haven't turned up in many domestic matches this term as was the case again at the weekend when they lost at home to St Johnstone.

Although the defeat most certainly didn't deserve the reaction towards the manager that came from some so-called supporters, it begs the question why the players can play so well in Europe yet fail to appear motivated enough for the league.

It isn't Lennon's job to lift his players but if there are repeat performances it might be worth publicly having a go at them.

Lennon has showed patience so far but it could be that a few homes truths and a serious kick up the backside is what some of the Celtic men need.