Celtic kickstart party with five-star performance

NEIL LENNON last night hailed his team’s third consecutive title triumph under his guidance and insisted Celtic supporters should savour “heady days” for the club.

Adam Matthews cracks open the bubbly in the Celtic dressing room. Picture: SNS

Celtic were crowned Scottish champions for the 45th time with an emphatic 5-1 win over Partick Thistle at Firhill, clinching the Premiership title with seven games to spare.

It has been a hugely dominant league campaign from Lennon’s team and he was gratified to see them cross the finishing line in style. “They clinched it the way we wanted them to play,” said Lennon. “In the second half particularly, some of the football was breathtaking.

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“You could feel the anticipation over the last couple of weeks as we got closer and the way we finished it was fantastic. It was symptomatic of how this team can play.

“These are heady days. There are generations who never got to experience this kind of success and they want to celebrate. We want to reach out to the younger generations. We want them to be with us for a lifetime.

“We are always favourites to win the league but we have been emphatic this season, exceptional. Since the turn of the year especially, we have played fantastic football.

“A lot of things have pleased me this season. The goal tally, the clean sheet record and the amount of points we have gathered. The emergence of Virgil van Dijk has been a huge plus.

“He’s world-class, everything you could want from a modern-day central defender and will go on to have a magnificent career. Fraser Forster is also one of the best goalkeepers this club has ever had.”

Celtic supporters have been chanting about ‘ten in a row’ this season but Lennon played down the prospect of his team stretching their title monopoly that far.

“I don’t know how long the dominance can last,” he added. “It’s too premature to talk about ten-in-a-row, four will do me next season. Winning three means a lot to me personally. I’m just carrying on the good work started by Martin O’Neill and continued by Gordon Strachan.

“It’s in this club’s DNA to win championships. I’ve now been involved in nine in 14 years. It’s been a real period of dominance in that respect.”

Celtic’s players were unable to enjoy a post-match lap of honour after some of their fans staged a pitch invasion, but Lennon was in forgiving mood.

There was a clear announcement over the PA system before the end of the match which stated the Celtic players would return to the pitch for celebrations so long as there was no pitch invasion. But after only a brief reappearance from the dressing room, the party was cut short for Lennon’s men when around 200 Celtic fans ignored the warning and surged onto the playing surface. “The fans were brilliant,” he said. “It was just over-exuberance from some of them. We have a demanding support but we have won this league in style.

“I look at players like Liam Henderson and Stefan Johansen scoring tonight. That’s a moment they will never forget. My captain, Scott Brown, has been magnificent for me. We have good talent coming through.

“But I have a core of guys like Charlie Mulgrew and Kris Commons who I can really hang my hat on. I’m singling guys out but they have all played their part this season. We don’t want it to end. We have really progressed as a club in the last four years, but we want to take it even further.”

Partick Thistle remain firmly embroiled in the battle to avoid the relegation play-off place, sitting just two points ahead of St Mirren. Manager Alan Archibald sought to play down the significance of last night’s defeat.

“We just need to put it behind us,” said Archibald. “We have a massive game against St Johnstone on Saturday and have to concentrate on that.

“Celtic went after us from the start tonight and took the wind out of our sails. It was the same at start of second half, it was hard after that.”