Celtic’s emphatic 5-1 victory at Partick Thistle on Wednesday night ensured an equally impressive 45th Scottish league title with seven games to spare.
Unrivalled in the league since Rangers’ dramatic decline three years ago, the green half of Glasgow has dominated the Scottish top flight and there seems little sign of that ending.
Yet not all is rosy north of the border. Neil Lennon’s job remains in doubt despite a third straight league title because of another disappointing UEFA Champions League outing that saw Celtic win just one of six group games.
Although Lennon insists his side is ready to compete on the continent, a strong feeling among fans remains that the manager is not up to the task – and with Celtic forced to make the group stages through two tricky qualifying rounds, there is a lot at stake this summer.
“Now we are really stamping our authority on the game in Scotland and want to take it further. We want to take it into Europe,” Lennon said after Wednesday’s game.
“We’ve got a very demanding support and aim to please. Certainly from the turn of the year, we have played a style of football that augurs well for the future.”
Indeed, the support that has floated Celtic so well in Europe before may eventually be the downfall of Lennon, who struggled as manager to match expectations this season after a memorable 2012/13 Champions League campaign.
Compare this season with last and some fans are starting to believe the club is sliding in the wrong direction. In 2012/13, Celtic scraped their first ever away win in the group stages with a 3-2 result in Moscow, lost agonisingly in the Nou Camp but got the ultimate revenge against Barcelona at Celtic Park when home-boy Tony Watt bagged a late winner.
The buoyancy that campaign gave the fans drove them into the pre-season but this campaign a disappointing transfer window and failure to handle European pressures have got the better of these players.
The influential Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper departed for a combined £17.5m, while defender Kelvin Wilson’s sale to Nottingham Forest brought in an extra £2.5m. Granted, Virgil van Dijk’s £2.6m arrival from Groningen has worked out well, but Lennon’s other signings have proven disappointing.
He bought Ajax’s £3m flop Derk Boerrigter (one goal in 21 games), Portuguese freebie Amido Balde (three in 20 games), Finnish striker Teemu Pukki (five in 28) and Stefan Johansen (two in 10 since arriving in January).
Lee Griffiths’ arrival from Wolves, meanwhile, is a solid acquisition but he alone is not enough to solve Celtic’s European woes.
It was always going to be tough against three giants of the global game but had Lennon invested the profits of his summer sales more wisely he could have at least challenged Ajax for that third-place spot in Group H.
Celtic fans must ask themselves: with no saleable players and a squad far from its peak, has Lennon taken this club as far as he can? We’ve heard his desire to tackle Europe before with little to show for it, and it’s safe to say not even a Scottish title guarantees job security.