THEY are about to finish a season trophyless for the first time in over a decade, still have to appoint a new manager, are poised to lose a raft of important players and currently have no head of recruitment to oversee the major rebuilding job that is required.

They will, too, need to name a new captain when Scott Brown, who has been a huge presence for them both on and off the park for the past 14 years, moves on later this month.

On top of all that, Peter Lawwell, the chief executive who has been in place since way back in 2003, will be succeeded by Dominic McKay, the former Scottish Rugby chief operating officer, at the start of July.  

It is very difficult to see how Celtic, thrashed 4-1 by Rangers at Ibrox on Sunday, can regroup after their calamitous season and challenge for silverware next term given the state of upheaval they are currently in.

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Yet, Andy Lynch witnessed first hand how the Parkhead club recovered quickly from the departure of two of the greatest figures in their entire history and a far more turbulent period; he was there back in 1970s when Billy McNeill retired and Jock Stein stood down.

He is confident his old club can turn things around and enjoy success again in future. “It’s natural for fans to worry about whether the team is going to cope at these sort of times,” he said. “But Celtic will survive.”

The former Celtic left back was unable to prevent the Glasgow giants from finishing fifth in the Premier Division and failing to lift any silverware before Stein moved on after 13 years in charge in 1978 – but he helped his old team mate McNeill to lift the league on the final day the following year. Glasgow Times:

Lynch, who had joined his boyhood heroes from Hearts in 1973, can recall the remarkable and rapid transformation they underwent when the talismanic European Cup-winning skipper returned.

“Towards the end of big Jock’s time as manager it was terrible,” he said. “There was a really bad atmosphere at Celtic Park. It was like a dark cloud was permanently hanging over the ground. It really felt like that.

“Big Jock had to bring in free transfers from all over the place in his final season and we didn’t win a trophy. It was as if the board had gone to him and said: ‘You aren’t getting any money to buy players’. It was a very strange time.

“I think the then chairman Desmond White was instrumental in him leaving. There was a big personality clash between the two. There were also issues with money. It was a bad period. All clubs have them. But as we would see, they don’t last forever. Billy came back.”

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Lynch continued: “I can remember Billy telling me that he regretted retiring when he did. His last game was the Scottish Cup final win over Airdrie in 1975. That was my first trophy and his last. I was honoured to play with him in that game. He was a fantastic figurehead and just a phenomenal guy. For me, he is the greatest ever Celt.

“I got the impression that he felt big Jock had pushed him to go down that road. Nothing would surprise you about the powers of big Jock. But it was ironic that it was Billy who came back as manager and got us winning again. His enthusiasm was infectious. He brought players in and we came again.

“Billy was clever. He brought back Bobby Lennox, who had been playing in Houston, and Vic Davidson, who had been at Blackpool, as well. He brought in players who knew what the club meant.  He also made a couple of terrific signings in Davie Provan and Murdo MacLeod. The directors loosened the purse strings.”

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Lynch believes that whoever succeeds Neil Lennon on a full-time basis will have few difficulties replacing Brown. He watched the Celtic match at the weekend and thought the former Hibernian and Scotland midfielder looked past his best in a one-sided encounter. He would have played Ismaila Soro ahead of him. 

“With the greatest respect to Scott Brown, I don’t see him being missed that much at Celtic,” he said. “I watched the game on Sunday. I don’t think I would have started him. He’s not as effective as he once was.

“A lot has been made about the length of time he has been there, the games he has played and the success he has enjoyed and he has certainly done tremendously. He has been a great Celtic player, captain and servant. But I don’t see the team suffering when he goes. For me, Ismaila Soro and David Turnbull are more effective.”  

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Stein certainly had no problems replacing McNeill as captain. Kenny Dalglish and then Danny McGrain, two of the finest footballers this country has ever produced, donned the armband when big Billy hung up his boots. Lynch was also handed the responsibility.

“Kenny’s captaincy was short-lived because he moved to Liverpool in 1977,” he said. “Danny took over from him. When he went out injured I was captain for about a season and a half. Big Jock actually didn’t think Danny was going to come back. He thought he was finished from the game because his ankle injury was so bad.

“He made me captain for a few games. Then one day he called me into his room. He said: ‘I am going to officially announce you as captain to the press because I don’t believe Danny will make a comeback. But don’t mention that publicly’. Of course, Danny did come back and continued for many years.”

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Lynch, whose son Simon also played for Celtic years later, is more concerned with how the Parkhead club replace the goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and strikers who are sure to move on given how poorly they recruited ahead of their ill-fated bid to complete 10-In-A-Row. 

“I am fearful about who Celtic buy this summer and the amount of money they spend,” he said. “Their track record in the transfer market in the last year or two has been terrible, horrendous.

“They have been bringing in players who have not been up to it. Turnbull has looked the part. He has really stood out. But you do look at some of the others and think: ‘Where did they get them? What is going on here?’ Their selection has been terrible. If they do that again it could be disastrous.

“It will be interesting to see who they bring in and if they spend a lot of money. Will they bring in somebody over and above the manager to identify in new players and oversee who goes out? There is so much work to be done.”

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