CELTIC manager Neil Lennon says that footballers have to be the ‘standard bearers’ for the rest of the country after two Aberdeen players tested positive for coronavirus.

Six other Aberdeen stars have been forced to self-isolate after reportedly enjoying a night out in the town after last Saturday’s defeat to Rangers at Pittodrie, leading to their fixture with St Johnstone -which was due to be played today – being postponed until August 20th.

That has led Lennon to call on all footballers to set an example through their behaviour to ensure the nation avoids another lockdown, and that competitive football isn’t once again placed into cold storage.

“A lot of people will point fingers at [the Aberdeen players] and it’s a lesson learned, certainly for everyone associated with the game,” Lennon said.

“[It’s] not just [about] the season but life in general. Aberdeen is back in lockdown and we just have to be careful that we don’t go back to a complete shutdown as well. It’s a fine balancing act.

“Aberdeen will probably come under a bit of criticism as a club but the players have made a mistake and now one of them has tested positive for the virus and I hope he recovers really well but it’s a lesson for everyone.

“We can’t risk it anymore. We can’t have a social life or a normal life, we have to be standard bearer for the rest of the country now in terms of coping with this as best as we possibly can.

“We’ve told our players and staff that, from now on, it’s training ground, home and games – and that’s the way it has to be. We’ve come so far, and everyone has worked so hard behind the scenes – the medical people and government people – to get the game up and running.

“It would be such a shame and really sore if we had to close it down again, so we really have to be on our guard from now on, at least in the short term.”

Lennon’s side are due to play Aberdeen next Saturday, and he is relieved that the SPFL have signalled their intention – for now at least - to allow the match to take place as scheduled.

“A postponement would be the last thing we need because the fixture list is congested enough as it is,” he said.

“It’s very unfortunate incident and one that could set us back as a league. We’ve had a chat with our players again this morning just to remind them of what they can and can’t do.

“The First Minister has come out and been very strong on this and I believe the government are going to speak to the managers and captains of each club to remind us of our responsibilities.”

If Scotland should suffer a second or third wave of coronavirus down the line, the knock-on effect on Scottish football during such a potentially momentous season would be obvious and far-reaching.

Whether that may lead to a repeat to the campaign being called early as it was this term remains to be seen, but with so much at stake, Lennon is encouraging his men to open up as much of a lead at the top of the table as quickly as they can should that nightmare scenario unfold.

“It’s a good point,” he said. “It’s not something I’ve really given much thought to because we’ve only just got the season up and running.

“We’ve made a great start obviously, and we’ve got a real difficult game on Sunday at a difficult venue [Kilmarnock at Rugby Park].

“Ideally, we don’t want this called again. We don’t want shut down again, it would be disastrous for everyone concerned.

“If that eventuality was to come around, I think it’s important that we find consistency and a level of performance that matches last year. It’s not an easy thing to do.

“We’re talking about things that are out of our control.”

On matters of more immediate concern, Lennon says that he may look to give £5m signing Vasilis Barkas his debut in tomorrow’s game at Kilmarnock after the Greek goalkeeper spent the week acclimatising to his new surroundings in Scotland, with Lennon’s only concern being the artificial pitch at Rugby Park.

Scott Bain took the gloves for the 5-1 opening day win over Hamilton last week, and Lennon will mull over whether to give Barkas his debut on a surface he may not be used to.

“[Barkas] had a good week’s training, so we’ll make a decision on that in the next 24 hours,” he said.

“But he’s had a good week. Again, going to Rugby Park, it will be – I wouldn’t say an eye opener for him – but certainly a bit different.

“Obviously, there will be no fans plus the artificial pitch. So, we’ll need to make sure he’s as well prepared as possible by kick-off time in terms of the conditions and circumstances he’ll face.”