FORMER Celtic boss Martin O'Neill reckons that Hoops supporters that are tearing into Neil Lennon after the weekend's 2-0 defeat to Rangers need to calm down - and insisted that his old captain is the right man to steer the champions to 10-in-a-row.

The current Parkhead manager has come under fire from sections of the club's support in the wake of the loss at home to their bitter rivals, with some fans questioning whether Lennon has what it takes to guide Celtic to a historic tenth successive Premiership title.

O'Neill says he understands the frustrations of the disappointed fans - but insisted that the flak Lennon has had to deal with is UNFAIR.

He told the Scottish Sun: "People would probably expect me to stick up for Neil, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t believe it.

“For one thing, this season is still in its infancy. Secondly, he won a Treble last season and that wasn’t too bad, was it? There is a rush to judgement at times, which I understand. If you lose a big game, like to Rangers, then judgements are made.

“People talk about systems and formations, back fours and back threes.

“So you are open to criticism and that’s just the way it is. There’s not a lot anyone, least of all Lennon, can do about that. But what I would say is that it’s a long season.

“By the looks of it, Rangers have been good this season at winning games they weren’t winning in the last few years. They have been able to stick at it and show some durability.

“But Celtic scored very late in a game against St Johnstone, and that was important.

“It’s too early for criticism, particularly for a manager who has actually succeeded at Celtic, both as a player and a manager. He took over from Brendan Rodgers, and was able to turn that around to win the title.

“We all know this is a massive year, because Celtic are going for ten in a row, with Rangers desperate to stop it. For me there is real excitement about the season. I’ve always said those two teams need each other to be strong and I stand by that.

“Rangers are getting stronger, having been very weak a couple of years ago, as they tried to make their way through the leagues. Celtic had it all their own way, and now it’s different.

“Rangers are pushing them. They were better in the League Cup final last season, and lost. For me that was because they had not won for a while, and Celtic were able to see it through.

“But there is a long way to go this season. Rangers have piled pressure on Celtic, and it’s up to them to keep that going, not to drift off like they did last year.

“Rangers will get a lot of confidence from winning at Celtic Park. In terms of criticism of Lennon, from where I’m sitting, I’d say that was unfair. People will say I would say that, but I would point to the success Lennon’s had there.

“When Rodgers left someone had to go in and keep it going, and I don’t believe there was anyone else who could have done that other than Lennon.

“I think he’ll be able to deal with any criticism that’s coming his way, even though it stings. But overall it’s part of the territory. He has been able to deal with those things in the past, and I believe he’ll be able to deal with this now.

“Do I think Celtic will win the league? At their strongest, they are still better than Rangers, so I believe they will do it.”