MARTIN O’NEILL’S public backing of his friend and former player Neil Lennon may well be a source of succour for the current Celtic manager during this difficult time in his career, but it is a lesson from O’Neill’s past that is providing Lennon with the greatest source of inspiration.

Lennon is long enough in the tooth to know that if results don’t pick up soon for Celtic, then his status as a club legend won’t protect him from the boot. He also knows though from both his own, and - pertinently – from O’Neill’s experience, that even the bleakest situations can be turned around.

“Martin O’Neill has been a massive influence on my career and in my life,” Lennon said. “I remember early in his time at Leicester. We lost at home to Sheffield United and the Leicester fans spilled on to the pitch at Filbert Street.

“They were demanding a change of manager. Martin had to go through that but he remained strong. We went unbeaten for nine or 10 games, we ended up getting promoted and he became one of the best managers in the Premier League for the next five or so years.

“He went through it in various stages of his managerial career. It’s not easy but you have to stay strong. I take a lot of inspiration from that.

“Martin knows me, as a person, a player and a manager. He believes in me. He believed in me when I played for him and he knows exactly what I am going through.

“He wouldn’t say anything publicly he doesn’t mean. While it was brilliant to have his support, it’s also great to talk to him privately about things as well.”

The tumult during Lennon’s career which has spilled over at times into his own personal life is well documented, travails that have helped him maintain a sense of perspective during this testing time of his second Celtic tenure.

"Every player or manager goes through a sticky patch in their career,” he said. "I have had a lot worse than this, to varying degrees.

"I need to keep a calm head and a sense of perspective.

"I spoke to the players after the game in Prague and opened it up to them. We are all together and very much unified. We aren't happy with the way things are and we are disappointed for the fans. The players are feeling it and they want to put it right.

“I went through a really difficult time in my second season at Bolton. That was more down to financial reasons as the club went in to administration.

“It was about trying to keep any sort of team together while they were selling off parts of the stadium and chunks of the car park and training ground. That was a really difficult period.

“There have been times here as a player when there’s been bad periods, and there were times even at Crewe in my younger days.

“I was maybe 19 or 20 and went through a lack of form and loss of confidence. It took some words from different people and things picked up again. I never looked back after that.

“This is a difficult situation for a club of this standing and in terms of the standards we set over the years.

“But it’s nothing we can’t turn around.”

Lennon says he is leaving no stone unturned as he tries to address the psychological problems he feel are affecting his men during this period, from having a psychologist come in to speak to them to having a lounge built at Lennoxtown to combat the fragmented environment at the training ground caused by Coronavirus restrictions.

“I think it’s confidence more than anything,” he said. “Life at the training ground and our pre-match routines are different, because we live in abnormal times.

“It can be difficult, especially for the new boys. They were very excited about coming to the club but the squad is split in different dressing rooms and the only time they see each other is on the training ground.

“Some are then going home to an empty house. They would have been thinking they would have been able to socialise, eat the restaurants, meeting their mates in cafes.

“It’s not been possible. I’m not saying that’s the only reason we are on a bad run.

“Eight of the team that played in Rome [in the win over Lazio] played [on Thursday] night. They have done fantastically well but they are lacking a bit of belief at the minute and a little bit of confidence. “I’m sure that will come back. They need to play their way through that.”

With the greatest of respect to Ross County, they would seem to have a golden opportunity to do just that tomorrow at Celtic Park as they face the struggling Staggies in the Betfred Cup round of 16.

A favourable fixture list up until the New Year follows, and Lennon says it is crucial to get off on a solid first footing.

“I’m looking forward to it as we’re starting our defence of the League Cup,” he said.

“It would be good to win the game and win it well and take it from there. We’ve got a big month coming up.

“We’ll look at setting the team targets for the month and give them an incentive to push for.

“They are definitely together. It’s all right me saying that and I know it’s words.

“But they are definitely close, I think they are together. The way they spoke after the game, they mean it.

“They are all hurting at the minute and are all determined [to come through it]. I know they are strong enough to change things and change things quickly.”