THIS season may be remembered for what happens on the domestic front, but that’s not to say that Celtic can simply forget about their ambitions on the European stage. That is Neil Lennon’s message not only to his players, but to those who say that the quest for 10 in-a-row caused Celtic to take their eye off the ball as they crashed out of the Champions League.

Celtic lost to Ferencvaros on Wednesday night to tumble out at the qualifying stage of Europe’s top competition for the third year in a row, but Lennon dismissed suggestions that Celtic are happy to forego the distraction of a long run in Europe for the greater prize – this season at least – of the Premiership title.

Instead, Lennon says that focus will now shift to making the most of Celtic’s second chance in the Europa League, a task he says can be achieved in tandem with going for a tenth consecutive Premiership crown.

“It’s ludicrous and a lot of hype,” Lennon said. “There was nothing wrong with the performance. The team played well, we had good control of the game and good chances.

“My anger [after the game] was more aimed at the fact we let a game we were in control of get away from us. We only have ourselves to blame. It’s nothing to do with the 10 in-a-row scenario.

“Our objective was to try to make the group stages. We haven’t and there will obviously be negative fallout which we’ve seen many times before.

“It hurts, don’t get me wrong. It’s not something I dismiss. But we have to park that now and move on.

“We’ve still got the Europa League to think of and also the domestic challenges that lie ahead.”

Lennon aimed a tirade at his players after the match, questioning the commitment of some of them and inviting those who no longer wished to be at Celtic to take their leave. His reaction, he says, is a reflection of the depth of his feeling at going out of the tournament.

“Don’t think I’m taking it lightly,” he said. “It’s a hammerblow. I want the Champions League for the players and the club as much as anybody.

“The players wanted it. They were really emotional after the game and disappointed.

“It’s a year’s work, they’ve worked so hard and did so brilliantly last year to earn the right to be in the Champions League.

“I didn’t think Ferencvaros deserved to win the game, although people will say they defended well. We had umpteen chances, umpteen shots at goal, hit the bar, had a good goal disallowed then conceded a really poor goal from our point of view.

“Unfortunately that’s the nature of football sometimes, but it still doesn’t mean I can’t get angry or frustrated about it.”

Depending on your perspective, Lennon has both the fortune and the misfortune to have had plenty of experience of bruising results in Europe for Celtic. The fortune comes with the wisdom of knowing that no matter how bad the result was or how damaging the fallout has been, the season itself is still salvageable.

As a player, he was part of the side who went down 5-0 to Artmedia Bratislava in 2005, a tie that the Celtic team of the time just failed to turn around in the home leg. They did however manage to turn the tide on their campaign, going on to win the title.

As a manager, he also has the more recent experience of the disappointing Champions League qualifying exit to Cluj last season, and he fully believes that the class of 2020 can bounce back just as those teams did.

“I felt after the second leg against Artmedia we had a good team,” he said. “We were very unlucky not to turn around things in that match.

“I know it sounds weird when you say that. We could easily have won that game 5-0 and it gave me a lot of confidence as a player to know we’d got a good side with a lot of character.

“I know what I’ve got with these players too. They’re brimming with character. I’m just disappointed for them that they’re not in the Champions League because I think they’re good enough to make inroads in it.

“I think the players are well aware they have a big season. The Champions League was one of our main objectives. It’s gone now early in the season.

“But there’s still plenty of time to hit top form, to hit consistency of performance and as we go along after the international break we’ll have a lot of players coming in fitter and they’ll make us better.

“There’s so much to look forward to. Yeah, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, I’m telling you now it’s really sore.

“But we have to go again and pick ourselves up. I still want to make the best of the Europa League as well.”