CELTIC’S players, manager and coaching staff may have enjoyed their record-equalling ninth consecutive Premiership triumph as best they could last month despite the coronavirus lockdown restrictions being in place.

But nobody at Parkhead will be wallowing in their achievement or taking their position as the outstanding side in the country for granted in the weeks until the new season kicks off, all being well, in August.

“The message is always clear,” said assistant manager John Kennedy after another training session at Lennoxtown yesterday. “We don’t stop, we always keep moving forward.”

There are good reasons for Celtic to strive to maintain the high standards they have set in the last few seasons next term; they want to get back into the Champions League group stages after a three year absence and 10-In-A-Row is also up for grabs.

Plus, Rangers, who were just two points behind them with a game in hand after winning at Parkhead at the end of December, have already brought in Ianis Hagi for £3m and are sure to strengthen further this summer.

Kennedy admitted the Ibrox club now pose more of a threat to their domestic dominance than they have for some time. But he revealed the defending champions were unaffected by their most recent challenge. And he stressed it was their intention to step up a level themselves in the coming campaign.

“I think Rangers have improved over the last few years,” he said. “They’ve had good spells and up until the New Year they were on our tails, which was fine. They were pushing us all the way. We had no problems with that, it didn’t bother us in the slightest.

“Our players responded to any questions that were asked of them, silenced the doubters in the second half of the season. I think for periods in the campaign Rangers did well. But over the course of a season they’ve not really fully delivered on that. We’ll see what next season produces, if they improve again.”

Kennedy added: “One thing’s for sure, we will certainly be better again. We’re the best team in the country and have been for a number of years. We intend to make sure it stays that way.

“We trust the players that over the course of a season they’ll prove they’re still the strongest team. As much as everyone else will come and have a go, we’ll be fully prepared.”

Kennedy has been at Celtic in a variety of different capacities – he was a trainee, a first team player, a scout and a coach before becoming assistant to Neil Lennon last summer - for over 20 years now and is well aware that there can never be any let-up.

“It’s incredible to be part of a Nine-In-A-Row success,” he said. “To look back on the run, it’s been a remarkable achievement for everyone involved. It’s taken so much hard work and fantastic consistency.

“Not just results and titles, there’s been a real steady progression in terms of off the field, culturally at the club, professionally, everyone getting the bigger picture of looking to be the dominant force in Scottish football. We’re also trying to progress in Europe.

“But the big thing at Celtic is trophies. To have achieved nine straight titles, 11 trophies in a row is remarkable for everyone at Celtic. We’ve got a great group of players. Great professionals, brilliant and talented individuals and relentless in striving for success for Celtic.”

Kennedy, whose promising playing career was cruelly cut short by a serious knee injury at the age of just 26 back in 2009, appreciates the unprecedented period of success that Celtic are currently enjoying won’t last indefinitely.

However, the former Scotland centre half knows it is important the Glasgow club continually endeavour to be as successful as possible both at home and abroad regardless of what the outcome is at the end of the season.

“When I first started in coaching and then had the opportunity to be involved with the first team when we were far from where we are now,” he said. “There have been challenging times along the way.

“It might not always be that we win every trophy every season. At some point you can’t continue to do that, trebles and everything else.

“Of course, we want to and that’s always the ambition. But there might be an off day for a cup game, a sending off or a penalty goes against us and we get knocked out. However, as long as we see the mentality and the development side of it then we’ll be happy.”

Everything that Kennedy has been through as both a player and a coach has prepared him for the situation Celtic now find themselves in – bidding to become the first side ever to win 10 consecutive Scottish titles.

Next season promises to be intense with so much on the line. But the 36-year-old is just delighted to be involved. He knows there will always be a fresh challenge regardless of what transpires.

“I’ve been a Celtic boy all my days,” he said. “Getting the chance to play for the first team was a dream. Injuries set me back.

“Even my first couple of years coaching with the first team under Ronny Deila there were challenging times, but we still won the league.

“I’ve seen both sides of football and that prepares you for everything that comes thereafter.

“I’ve never got too high or too low. I never get carried away with anything. If things do go well then I reflect on how it came about, if they don’t then I consider what went wrong. It keeps me in a stable place.

“No sooner do you win something at Celtic, then there’s another thing round the corner to attack.”