ECLIPSING Celtic’s greatest ever achievement, their 1967 European Cup triumph, is beyond the capabilities of whoever occupies the Parkhead dugout these days.

The finances available to the continent’s giants make qualifying for the Champions League group stages, never mind winning it, a significant accomplishment for the Glasgow club in the modern game.

Yet, this time last year Neil Lennon and his players were still wallowing in the afterglow of a feat which had proved beyond even his legendary predecessor Jock Stein and the Lisbon Lions.

Celtic had beaten an Italian team in Italy for the first time for their 131-year history and secured their place in the Europa League knockout rounds with two games to spare as a consequence.

There was excited chatter about whether they were good enough to prevail in that competition in the wake of the dramatic 2-1 victory over Lazio in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

Fast forward 12 months and Lennon finds himself in a rather different place; his side are performing woefully, trail Rangers in the Premiership by 11 points and can’t progress in Europe after back-to-back 4-1 losses to Sparta Prague.

The pressure on him is more intense than it has ever been during his two spells in charge. Fans fear their chances of making history and completing 10-In-A-Row this term are slipping away. Many are demanding change.

The Scottish champions’ board will give a man who has won all four domestic trophies since replacing Brendan Rodgers in February last year time, until the Old Firm game at Ibrox at the end of next month at least, to turn things around.

But slip up against Ross County at home in the second round of the Betfred Cup tomorrow afternoon or in any of their forthcoming league fixtures and the clamour to sack him will become difficult for the hierarchy to ignore. There is no longer any margin for error.

So how did Celtic go from being the dominant side in this country and a formidable force in Europe to being in a state of disarray in such a short space of time? How did Lennon go from being lauded by supporters to being lambasted? And, most importantly, where does he go from here to revive their ailing fortunes and keep his job?

It is fair to say that everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong for the Northern Irishman since football resumed in this country in August.

Many of his summer signings have failed to deliver. Games have been played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic and the atmosphere has been non-existent. Momentum was disrupted by match cancellations. His squad has been bedevilled by both injury and illness. The form of senior personnel has left much to be desired. It really has been the perfect storm.

However, there were early indications that all was not well behind the scenes in Paradise, that there was unrest in the camp, when Lennon spoke in the wake of the abject 2-1 defeat to Ferencvaros in a Champions League qualifier at home back in August.

He confessed the attitude of several of his charges had been annoying him for some time. “I just want the players who want to be here,” he said. “Some of you don’t want to be here? Leave.”

It could have been said in the heat of the moment. He certainly backtracked afterwards. But he has questioned the commitment of many mainstays of his side on a few occasions since. Indeed, just last weekend he branded them “lazy” after they had been held to a 2-2 draw by Hibernian at Easter Road.

The Covid-19 outbreak that has deprived him of Nir Bitton, Ryan Christie, Odsonne Edouard and Hatem Elhamed in recent weeks may also have delayed the departure of those who were eager to move on. Several key players have certainly looked as if their hearts are not in it, as if their heads are elsewhere, of late. Being castigated publicly will have done nothing to lift their mood.

They can’t, though, argue that they haven’t deserved it at times. They are, too, handsomely-paid professional sportsmen who should strive to deliver every time they take to the field regardless of their future career ambitions. They must accept their share of responsibility for the slump in form and raise themselves to end it.

Yet, what is the reason for Albian Ajeti failing to score? For Vaslis Barkas being unable to live up to his price tag? For Shane Duffy not looking like an international centre back who has cost a small fortune to bring in on loan? For Scott Brown being out of sorts? None of them are eyeing lucrative transfers to clubs in bigger leagues.

The prolonged absences of Leigh Griffiths, Christopher Jullien, James Forrest and Mikey Johnston, mainstays of the Celtic team, hasn’t helped matters. But Lennon has had more than enough at his disposal. The paucity of their displays has perplexed as well as disappointed him. He has changed formation, he has altered his starting line-up. Nothing has made much of a difference. Their defending in particular has been atrocious. It is why disgruntled fans now believe that he is the problem.

He has come through similar ordeals in the past. He was possibly 45 minutes away from getting the sack back in October 2011 when his side was trailing Kilmarnock 3-0 at half-time at Rugby Park. They rallied, drew that match 3-3 and went on to lift the Scottish title.

But their resurgence coincided with Rangers’ off-field problems coming to a head. And the Ibrox club are on fire at home and abroad just now. Even if he can get his men back on track, and that is a big if on the evidence of recent showings, can the current leaders be caught and overtaken? He needs them to ship points as well and that isn’t looking likely.

If Neil Lennon can survive this crisis and lead Celtic to 10-In-A-Row it will rank among his greatest achievements in the game as a player or a coach.