IF what had transpired at Celtic last week happened a decade ago during Neil Lennon’s first spell in charge of the club, there may have been a few pundits with his voice still ringing in their ears this Sunday morning.

Time, though, has mellowed Lennon to such an extent that he didn’t even contemplate reaching for the phone last week to address the barrage of criticism that has come the way of both he and his team after their desperately disappointing Champions League qualifying exit to CFR Cluj, even when that public slating has come from those who played with him, and who he would consider friends.

Former teammates Chris Sutton and John Hartson are among those to have had their say on their old side’s poor showing, as well as other ex-Celts like Andy Walker, but a gaining of perspective has allowed Lennon to realise that getting worked up about the opinions of others ultimately achieves little, and that criticism from pundits isn’t personal, it’s strictly their business.

“Sutty is a pundit so he has got to do his job,” said Lennon. “That is Chris’s job. If you are going to take it personally, then…

“Chris, the Andy Walkers of this world, Hartson: they are doing their job which is giving their opinion. Whether I want to listen to it is another thing.

“I don’t take it personally. They will see the game the way they see it and I will see the game the way I see it.

“It comes with experience. Ten years ago, I would have been on the phone to Sutty. ‘See you, you such and such, what are you talking about?’

“You learn. You can’t always expect the team to do what you want them to do. They are going to make mistakes. Some of them are going to be off it. You have to accept that and understand it, but it is a bitter pill to swallow.

“We have had a two-day hangover, there might be a bit more of a hangover, a prolonged one, but we have to work through that and gauge the Europa League ties when they come. It is not what we want but we have to accept it now.”

That’s not say Lennon feels the criticism is justified, particularly around his decision to play Callum McGregor at left-back, a factor he maintains had no bearing on the disastrous defeat.

“[The qualifers] is something we have been working on for two months,” he said. “Up until Tuesday night we were absolutely flying. We had negotiated things very, very well.

“People can talk about playing Callum at left back but if you actually analyse the outcome it had no bearing on the outcome.

“Maybe people will say he should have been playing in midfield. We as a group didn’t play well first half: we didn’t take the press out, we didn’t turn them the way we should have done.

“They fell back into the way we have been playing the last couple of years. We showed them it [on Friday] morning and well, we have to vary the way we play.

“It is a fallout and fallouts will come. You have to have a sense of perspective on things. So, you win 7-0, 5-2, you don’t get too high about it. You lose a big game in disappointing circumstances, you don’t get too low about it.

“You have to analyse it in the cold light of day. You speak to the players about it. We have analysed the first half which was probably the most disappointing aspect of Tuesday night because we didn’t approach the game the way we wanted them to in terms of full throttle.

“Second half we got the reaction we were looking for. We were outstanding second half. We were leading 2-1 and 3-2. We give Cluj oxygen through freakish goals. We didn’t do the nuts and bolts right in terms of stopping crosses and stopping shots.

“Then we got a head of steam up second half and this team is exciting me because at that point we played some outstanding football and created some really good chances.

“I don’t think we deserved to lose the game, but the cold light of day tells you we did. That is what hurts the most.”

Another man who may be glad that time has changed Lennon’s outlook and approach to setbacks such as the Cluj defeat is club captain Scott Brown.

Given the central role he played in the fiasco, whether that be from failing to close down opponents at key moments in the build-up to the visitors’ first and third goals, or literally handling them the second from the penalty spot, it is a fair bet that Lennon’s voice may well have been ringing in his own ears in years gone past.

“Yeah, but he’s holding his hand up,” Lennon said, which, ironically, was literally the problem on Tuesday night.

“Again, we are not here to make scapegoats or individualise. Ten years ago, I probably would have done. I’ve learned from that as well.

“It is a collective. We missed good chances and if we had taken our chances, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

“You can analyse the defeat in many, many ways. He’s disappointed, obviously, but he has been a huge player for the club for a long, long time and will continue to be.”