THE Celtic players have been lavished with praise in 2020 for the attacking football that helped them open up a 13 point gap over Rangers at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership and move to the brink of a record-equalling ninth consecutive title.

Yet, Callum McGregor, who has scored seven goals in 14 appearances for the Parkhead club this year to take his tally for the season to 13, believes it is their manager Neil Lennon who is most deserving of the adulation.

The Scotland midfielder feels that Lennon must take all the credit for the scintillating form the treble treble winners have produced since a painful home defeat to their city rivals in the league at the end of December.

The 2-1 loss to Steven Gerrard’s side moved the Govan club, who had a game in hand against St Johnstone at Ibrox still to play, to within just two points of the defending champions.

Many pundits and supporters confidently predicted the balance of power in Scottish football was set to shift after eight long years in the second half of the 2019/20 campaign following those 90 minutes.

Scott Brown and his team mates, most of whom had played at home and abroad for club and country without a break for six months solid, all looked a yard off the pace in that disappointing outing. The winter shutdown came at the perfect moment for them.

McGregor, though, knows the tactical changes, not least the switch to a 3-5-2 formation, that Lennon made during their warm weather training break in Dubai in January have been absolutely key to their resurgence.

"Everyone has been raving about the team's performances, but you also need to look at the gaffer,” he said. "So much time, effort and thought has gone into getting us into that frame of mind to be winners.

"The gaffer tweaked the system in January and you saw the results of that move. He wanted to free players up to attack, he wanted more goals and attacking football. He felt we'd lost a bit of our zest in the final third and wanted that back.

“The gaffer wanted more energy when we lost the ball and we worked on all of that in Dubai. He deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the job he has done since coming back.”

McGregor added: "Think back to last February and the pressure he was under to finish off the treble. Then after he achieved that, people said: 'Okay, can you go again?'. The gaffer has answered that ten-fold.

"Even in the first half of the season, we won the Betfred Cup and topped our Europa League group. Then we lost one game in December and the whole thing turned on us.

"But after Dubai, we came back even stronger and that shows the work being put in behind scenes. It shows how much of a top manager he is and his desire to win has rubbed off on the team.”

The 26-year-old appreciates that he has benefitted from the changes that Lennon made as much as anyone in the Celtic side.

He scored in their first game back after the shutdown – a 2-1 win over Partick Thistle at Firhill in the William Hill Scottish Cup – and followed up that strike by netting in Premiership games against Ross County, Motherwell, Hearts, Aberdeen, Livingston and St Mirren.

"My own goal return probably shows just how well the manager's system tweak worked,” he said. “He lets players go and play with freedom. We counter attacked with real pace, power and threat. He wants us to attack in fives and sixes.

"You look back at the gaffer's first spell at Celtic and his teams always scored a lot of goals. That's the way he wants us to play.

"It's a bit different to Brendan's style. We still scored a lot of goals, but it was more controlled. But it just shows that with two different systems, you can still carry a huge attacking threat. We were on fire in that second half of the season and the gaffer deserves a lot of praise for that.”