NEIL Lennon last night branded the criticism that has been directed at Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell in the aftermath of the Champions League exit to CFR Cluj last week as “very unfair”.

The Parkhead director has borne the brunt of the fallout to the bitterly disappointing 4-3 loss the Glasgow club suffered at home in the second leg of the third qualifying round last Tuesday night.

Ultras group the Green Brigade unfurled banners which accused directors of “downsizing” and “gambling 10-In-A-Row” before the Betfred Cup game against Dunfermline at Celtic Park on Saturday.

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However, Lennon, whose side take on AIK Stockholm in the first leg of their Europa League play-off in the East End tonight, leapt to the defence of Lawwell and insisted he had been satisfied with the financial backing he has received this summer.

Asked about the abuse the Celtic chef executive has been subjected to, he said: “It’s very unfair. I think it’s totally imbalanced.

“He’s presided over eight leagues in a row and three trebles and we’ve been in the last 16 (of the Champions League) a few times as well over the piece. So it’s probably as good a time as the club has had for a long, long time.”

Many fans are unhappy at the amount of money Lennon, who has spent £7 million on Christopher Jullien and £3.5 million on Boli Bolingoli in the close season, has received from the Celtic board.

The last annual accounts the triple Treble winners published last showed they had £27 million cash reserves in the bank and some supporters feel more could have been spent on new recruits.

“I can’t comment on that,” said Lennon. “I’m not aware of how much money there is, but he (Lawwell) does what’s best for the club and he always has done, maybe to the detriment of himself sometimes. I know he puts the club first and the future of the club, at all times.”

Lennon also defended the work carried out by Nicky Hammond, who replaced head of recruitment Lee Congerton “for the summer period” at the start of July, during the close season.

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“Everything is not as cut in stone as people want them to be,” he said. “It’s just not that simple. Nicky is not just going to build it for the short-term, but have a recruitment structure for the longer term.

“There is a bit of a void there since Lee left. But, again, we are over-analysing the recruitment side of things. Some of it has worked, some of it hasn’t worked and that happens in football.

“It’s not the be all and end all. At the end of the day I think if we go out tomorrow night, play well and put on a positive performance things change very quickly again. That’s my whole concentration at the minute, while obviously we are working away in the background trying to get players in to add to what we already have.”

Lennon revealed that Hatem Elhamed, the Israeli right back, suffered a hip injury in training and is a doubt for the AIK match. However, he is hopeful that both Kristoffer Ajer and Jozo Simunovic, who had ankle and shoulder injuries respectively, will be fit. Elsewhere, Scott Bain is expected to be out for a month after dislocating his thumb.