Football: Lennon Quick to Lavish Praise on Strachan ; SCOTTISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Article excerpt

The taunt that Celtic fans once used to rile Rangers with must have had a hollow ring over the last eight months. "You'll be watching The Bill while we're in Seville," was how they goaded their Old Firm rivals before the 2003 Uefa Cup final.

For the last eight months, it is Celtic fans who have been catching up on midweek television. Their shock removal from Europe by Artmedia Bratislava in the qualifying round of the Champions' League was compounded by watching Rangers go on to reach the last 16 of the competition before losing to Vil-larreal on the away goals rule.

However, Celtic used the time to lick their wounds. In the absence of any European distraction, they adopted a single-minded philosophy to the Scottish Premier League. The reward came last Wednesday as 60,000 Celtic fans lifted the roof off Parkhead as they celebrated a 40th Scottish championship.

The occasion was as cathartic as it was joyful. The loss of their title in the final minutes of last season at Motherwell scarred Celtic even before the departure of Martin O'Neill. What then transpired on 27 July in Bratislava almost consumed Gordon Strachan before his work as successor had even begun.

The Celtic manager revealed after the 1-0 success over nearest- rivals Hearts, which secured the title six games early - with a 20- point lead over the Edinburgh side - that his watch stopped that night in Slovakia and he had worn it ever since as a reminder of "the worst night of my whole career".

Now Strachan has Celtic ticking along nicely. He has replaced the worn-out parts of O'Neill's side - John Hartson is set to head south again to join Chris Sutton - and only Stilian Petrov, Bobo Balde and Neil Lennon will remain from O'Neill's old guard. …