Celtic win 45th title, target Euro breakthrough
Celtic manager Neil Lennon has set his sights on making inroads in Europe after the Glasgow giants clinched their 45th Scottish league title.
The Hoops sealed their third successive Scottish Premiership championship in style following an emphatic 5-1 win over Partick Thistle at Firhill for the earliest top flight title victory since 1928/29.
The Hoops have dropped just nine points on their relentless march to the title, tasting defeat just once in a season where 'keeper Fraser Forster set a new Scottish shut-out record of 1,256 minutes.
However, the Hoops have suffered disappointment in both domestic cup competitions this term as they were knocked out by Morton at the first hurdle in the League Cup before the Dons claimed their scalp in the Scottish Cup.
The Glasgow giants were also dumped out of Europe following a poor Champions League campaign that saw them finish bottom of their group with just one win.
Celtic will have to negotiate three qualifying rounds if they are to join the elite of European football in next year's Champions League and Lennon has challenged his players to take their impressive league form into Europe.
"For a long, long time Celtic didn't win championships and now generation after generation of young supporters are coming to games and seeing Celtic win and that's fantastic," Lennon said.
"When I was growing up there wasn't an annual party and now we are really stamping our authority on the game in Scotland and we want to take it further. We want to take it into Europe and enhance our reputation there as well.
"We are just an outstanding team and we are an outstanding club at the minute. It's brilliantly run and the strategy is spot-on.
"I've got really good people working behind the scenes and I've got a fantastic football team. They are a great bunch of boys whose attitude and enthusiasm and will to win is everything you can ask for as a manager.
"I'm very proud of them and we march forward."
Last season's exploits in Europe took their toll on Celtic, who suffered seven defeats in the league.
However, they have already surpassed last season's points tally with seven games remaining and, despite criticism from some quarters about the lack of competition for his side in the absence of their historic rivals Rangers, Lennon hailed his side's achievement.
"The league is our priority and obviously we wanted to improve on last year. This is unquestionably the greatest league campaign I've had as a manager," the Celtic boss said.
"We've had one defeat in 31 games and the style of football, the goals we've scored and the clean sheets we've kept have been impressive.
"We are the title favourites every season but we've been emphatic this year. There is room for improvement and obviously there are other competitions we want to look at and stride forward in. But in terms of our league form the consistency and quality of performances have been fantastic
"It's in our DNA as a club to win championships and since I've been involved with the club that's nine out of the past 14 years so we're certainly stamping our domination on the championship."
It is a third successive league title for Celtic and Lennon, who recently celebrated four years as manager, to add to the five championships he clinched as a player with the Parkhead club.
Lennon initially landed the job on a temporary basis following Tony Mowbray's dismissal in March 2010 and feared he had blown his permanent chances when he guided the club to a Scottish Cup semi-final defeat the following month.
The Hoops boss admits he and the club have come a long way since then.
"I think the success and growth of the club has been really significant in that four-year period," Lennon said.
"That's not just done to myself and my background team but a whole network of people who work at the club and the strategy they've put in place and we've just tried to follow that and it's been very, very successful."
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