NEIL LENNON today insisted Rangers' absence from the SPL won't tarnish Celtic's runaway title procession.
The Parkhead club are a whopping 21 points clear and a possible four games away from clinching back-to-back championships under Lennon.
And the Hoops boss is thrilled at the prospect of ensuring that the SPL trophy stays in Celtic's cabinet. Shooting down any talk of tainted titles, he said: "People can say what they like.
"We won the league last season by 20 points and Rangers were there. The reality is they are not here and we have still managed to motor on.
"I have been really pleased with the consistency. That is us scored 100 goals in all competitions now this season and it's a fantastic return.
"I have to say we are delighted with what we are doing and the direction that the team is going. I don't think anyone can ask too many questions of us."
Last season Lennon's Celtic returned from the dead to claim the title after being 15 points behind Rangers at one stage. The Ibrox side were docked ten points for going into administration and Lennon felt at the time that his side didn't quite get the recognition they deserved for hauling themselves back into the title race.
And while this season's triumph will come at a canter, Lennon is insistent that it will be every bit as satisfying.
"Every title is the same and the next one is always the most important one," he said.
"As a manager you sit down every season and set out your priorities, and top of the agenda for us every year is winning that league.
"We've hit a few targets that we set for ourselves, but the next one is to get through the rest of this season unbeaten.
"We want to keep it going. The boys are in good nick, they are playing some really good football, they look like they're enjoying it and we want to maintain that until the end of the season if we can."
Lennon will look to sit down with Joe Ledley over the next few weeks, but he is also preparing to offer Anthony Stokes another deal with the club.
The Irish striker is out of contract at the end of this season, although Celtic look set to extend that. However, Lennon has hinted that Paddy McCourt's time at the club is coming to an end after the playmaker has spent another frustrating season on the periphery of things.
"We have an option on Anthony," said Lennon. "If he keeps performing the way that he did at the weekend then I don't think that he will have any problems.
"Paddy has found it hard this season to get a regular berth and I appreciate that can be a frustrating position for him to be in at this stage of his career.
"I'll be speaking to him before now and the end of the season."