CELTIC assistant manager John Kennedy has dismissed Gareth McAuley’s assessment of their ninth title in a row as ‘tainted and hollow’, saying that the only thing that matters is that the trophy is still sitting at Celtic Park.

McAuley, who played 11 times for Rangers last season, told the Sunday Life newspaper that there should be an asterisk next to Celtic’s name as winners of this year’s title, and that the trophy had been handed to Neil Lennon’s side.

But Kennedy shrugged off the comments, saying the only people who would give them any credence would have to be ‘Rangers-minded’.

“For someone to come out randomly and say what Gareth McAuley has? To be honest, I don’t care,” Kennedy said. “The decision’s been made, and we are worthy nine-in-a-row winners.

“I think there’s an element too of playing the game and saying what your support wants to hear. But, they can try and lift their support as much as they want, say what they like, because the reality is the trophy’s sitting at Celtic Park.

“To be honest, I don’t let what anyone says bother me. Ultimately, the ones who come out and say that kind of thing are Rangers-minded or are the opposition.

“Had the shoe been on the other foot, would Gareth McAuley be saying there’s an asterisk against Rangers’ title if they had been leading? Certainly not. The people who say this are the people you expect to say it.”

Kennedy isn’t allowing any would-be detractors devalue Celtic’s achievement having witnessed first-hand the sweat expended to allow them to open up the 13-point gap that existed at the time of the shutdown. And he says they would never have allowed that advantage to slip.

“The most important thing for us is we know what we’ve achieved is very legitimate,” he said. “It’s very worthy. I know exactly how much work and effort goes into this.

“The season was cut short amid unprecedented circumstances. Nobody could do anything about it.

“So, you’ve got to then make a decision on that, and we were sitting 13 points clear with a handful of games left. For us, we were going to win the title regardless.

“It’s one we’ll savour. It’s part of our history now. Regardless of what anyone else thinks, there certainly won’t be an asterisk beside our title. It’s 100-per-cent deserved.

“We know the world we live in. The tension in a place like Glasgow. Emotionally, things can get wound up very easily.

“Gareth McAuley is someone who in terms of his career you’ve got to admire him. But in terms of getting involved in something that doesn’t really involve him now, it’s unfortunate. He’s from a Rangers background and he’s been asked his opinion.

“But the reality is it’s not going to affect us in any way. But all talk of asterisks and a title being devalued, it doesn’t matter to us – we’re nine in a row champions, we’ve got the trophy again.

“I think there’s every chance we would’ve extended our lead at the top. The form we were in and the way things were looking everywhere else, I think there would’ve been a strong possibility of us increasing that 13 point gap.

“And 100-per-cent we would’ve won the league anyway.”