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The Only Way Is Up For Bhoys

Friday 24th February 2012
In their first full season under Neil Lennon, Celtic faced an early double exit from Europe. Eventual Europa League finalists  Braga knocked Celtic out of the Champions League qualifiers and Dutch side Utrecht defeated them in the Europa League. Despite home wins in both ties it was below par away shows which sent Celtic packing from European competition, and Lennon was blamed by many for a lack of tactical awareness.

A year on and Celtic qualified for the Europa League group stages in admittedly unusual circumstances. Despite going through their worst form under Lennon - falling 15 points behind rivals Rangers in the title race - Celtic made a decent account of themselves despite being drawn in arguably the hardest group. Despite home and away losses to group winners Atletico Madrid, Celtic took four points from reasonable French side Rennes and two 1-1 draws with at the time Serie A leaders Udinese. Despite being the better side in both games, a more than dubious penalty desicion in the dying seconds at home and the clinical finishing of Antonio Di Natale in Udine cost Celtic 3 points in both games.

After a brilliant 19-point turnaround by Neil Lennon's team, followed by a 10 point deduction for Rangers when they entered administration, the Bhoys now have a 20-point lead in the SPL and effectively have the title wrapped up. Barring any major disasters in qualifying Celtic will take back their rightful, in Celtic supporters' minds at least, place in Europe's elite club competition.

Celtic have in recent years implemented a strategy of buying young, talented players at low prices and selling them on a few years down the line for a large profit. Celtic fans believe that they have around ten players in their squad who can go on to play in Europe's top leagues, but the club will only get the true value for these players if they prove just how good they are on the European stage.

The current Celtic team is a very good one and with a few additions it should become one that can represent Scotland well in Europe next season. Just how well they can do will depend on how well they start the season, which in both seasons under Lennon has been somewhat disappointing. Hitting the ground running will be a must.
Jack Lyons

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