THE lack of a crowd at the opening games of the seasoning will be no excuse for a lack of focus, Celtic manager Neil Lennon has warned his men, as he has hammered home the point that every match next season will be absolutely critical if his players want to write their names into Celtic folklore.

Lennon has taken his players on a training trip to Loughborough University this week before a trip to France to play friendlies against elite opposition as he looks to ramp up preparations for the resumption of the SPFL Premiership at the start of August.

Speaking from their English training base, Lennon said that he is using this extended pre-season period to not only get his men accustomed to playing matches behind closed doors, but to underline to them the importance of treating the season opener against Hamilton in an empty Celtic Park in the same way they would treat a cup final.

“Every game is going to be hugely critical from our point of view because of what we could achieve as a group and as a club,” Lennon told Celtic TV. “So, we have to be really focused.

“It’s so important that we concentrate first and foremost on the start of the campaign, and make sure we are in the right mindset, make sure we are in the right physical condition, and we get used to the environment and all the different situations that are going to be thrown at us going forward.

“We’ve had a good pre-season so far. It’s been a bit elongated, and I think that’s been beneficial.

“We’ve had four weeks now and the guys are itching to get a game. That’s what we’ve been building up to, and hopefully after three or four games they will start finding their game legs, and their match psychology going into games.

“It’s very exciting. It’s been a long break, but they’ve come back in good condition and that is getting better all the time.”

In recent years, Celtic have opted to travel to Austria for pre-season training camps, but having been denied that opportunity this summer due to the Covid-19 travel restrictions, Lennon feels it was important simply to give his players a change of scenery of some sorts.

“I think it’s important to get the boys away,” he said. “We’ve had a few hard weeks back at Lennoxtown, so this really breaks up the pre-season for us.

“I think the boys are enjoying it. The facilities are magnificent, the pitches are in mint condition, and training has gone very well so far.

“It’s just all part of the preparation, and the players are working very hard.

“We’re trying to ramp it up now, because we’re coming into games pretty soon, and they haven’t played a competitive game in almost four months now, so it’s important that we get into a match rhythm and we get a competitive edge into training to take that into the games next week.

“The other side of it is getting used to playing behind closed doors, the players have to adapt to that environment. It will be totally different to what they’ve been used to obviously, and the more we can practice at that, the better they can adapt to it.”

The pre-season period has also afforded Lennon the opportunity to run the rule more closely over the likes of Patryk Klimala and Ismaila Soro, and he has liked what he has seen from the pair so far in training. So much so, that Celtic supporters may well get a greater opportunity to see the men who arrived at the club during the last campaign.

“They’re starting to really integrate well,” said Lennon. “I’m delighted with the both of them.

“It was a short turnaround for them when they came into the club in January and March, but they’ve had a good pre-season.

“Chris Jullien has had his first proper pre-season with us, Boli (Bolingoli) is the same, so hopefully these guys will get the benefit of that, Moi Elyounoussi as well.

“These are quality players, and they are part of the preparations in getting their fitness and their physical development and the team bonding as well that we are all doing at the minute.

“There’s not too many changes, and that was probably really important for us going forward into the start of the season.”

Lennon also took time to thank the Celtic supporters for their backing over the shutdown, saying that their generosity in renewing season tickets in such an uncertain period is providing huge motivation to his players.

“We’re completely overwhelmed by the support,” he said. “It’s something we don’t take for granted, so a huge amount of thanks to everyone who has contributed back into the club for this season.

“It is a momentous season, and you can’t have one without the other; we want the players back fit and playing and we want the fans back in the stadium to see the players play.

“We’ve got all that to look forward to, but in the meantime, if it is behind closed doors for whatever length of time that will be, it’s really utmost and part and parcel of our preparations that we get used to that quickly.

“It’s a huge motivation and an inspiration for the players. We have a huge amount of gratitude, and that will be rammed into the player’s mindset going into the season.

“Even though the supporters might not be there initially, they are with us, and I think that’s a great support to the players in he background to know that when the games do open up again, they are going to have full houses, great atmospheres, and all those good things to look forward to.”