AS much as Peter Lawwell has been desperate to see fans back inside Celtic Park since this wretched pandemic arrived on our shores, there would have been times over the past few troubled weeks where he perhaps wasn’t quite so eager to face his paying customers.

At no time would that sentiment have been bubbling nearer the surface than yesterday, as the Celtic chief executive and the rest of the club’s board were spared what some fans perceive as the annual indignity of having to rub shoulders with Joe Public, or in this case, the club’s shareholders.

Instead, chairman Ian Bankier presided over a ‘virtual’ AGM, where all the dry formalities remained, but where the unpredictability of fielding questions from the floor was supplanted by the considerably less volatile prospect of pre-recorded interviews with Celtic TV host Gerry McCulloch.

As consummate a broadcaster as McCulloch is, Jeremy Paxman he ain’t.

First up though was the annual run-through of resolutions and re-elections that were swept through with little fuss, with the only real point of interest for fans coming with the raising of Resolution 11, the follow-up to Resolution 12 which implored Celtic to refer the SFA to UEFA over the granting of a licence for Rangers to compete in Europe back in 2010.

The board recommended that the resolution be rejected by shareholders, and so it was in resounding fashion, with just 2.82 percent in favour of the motion and 97.18 percent against. Remarkably, that was the closest margin of the day.

Bankier explained the view of the board that the SFA should hold an independent review into the matter, saying: "We've taken professional advice and engaged with interested shareholders. We understand our duties to shareholders. The requirement to consider the views of the shareholders has been at the forefront of the mind.

"Peter Lawwell raised this matter with the SFA in 2011 and 2012, before resolution 12 was raised in 2013.

"The matter has been reviewed by the board on a regular basis. I've reviewed this matter and I'm satisfied that at no time has anyone at the club mislead shareholders on this issue.

"The club called on the SFA to hold an independent review. The SFA declined to hold such a review.

"The club remains of the view that an independent review is the best way forward. In May 2020, the Scottish FA decided not to process proceedings.

"We all agree this situation is disappointing.”

Then it was on to the ‘Q&A’. which as well as being hosted by the Celtic TV host, had the feeling of a club channel production.

While shareholders were invited to send in questions for their board prior to the meeting, Bankier explained that to ‘avoid repetition’, he, Lawwell and manager Neil Lennon had sat down with McCulloch to go through some of the more general points, while they would write to others individually to answer their queries.

Of course, finding a satisfactory way to address the concerns raised by supporters in these strange times was never going to be easy, but the whole thing felt sterile and stage-managed, with hard questions reduced to softball set-ups.

There were however robust defences of the board and the manager from Lawwell, who steadfastly rebuked the idea that the high heid yins at the club had been sleeping at the wheel as the quest for 10 in-a-row has lurched violently off-course.

They had spent £35million on transfers, he argued, an unprecedented investment in the playing squad. That may be true, but what wasn’t examined though was how wisely that money was spent.

They are backing Lennon because he is a Celtic man and knows what it takes to win a title, even from such a disadvantageous position. Again, true, but what wasn’t examined was how they got into a position where a manager who is going for a Quadruple Treble at the weekend is under such pressure from disgruntled supporters. Indeed, the trumpeting of the domestic success over the past few years is deserved, but there seemed a lack of recognition that it is what is going on in the present that is setting alarm bells ringing.

There was an insistence that Celtic see themselves as a top-level European club in everything that they do. That may very well also be true, but what wasn’t examined were the reasons behind the failure to qualify for the Champions League group stages for three consecutive seasons, and the subsequent financial rewards that have been missed as a result. And so it went on.

For Lennon’s part, he offered his own passionate defence of his Celtic credentials, and also reiterated his belief that he could ultimately get Celtic back on track and reel in Rangers to claim the place in history that seemed all-but fated at the beginning of the campaign.

Whether the Celtic board were foolhardy to back their man remains to be seen, but what can’t be doubted is the depth of feeling that Lennon has for the club. No one, he said, wants to win 10 in-a-row more than him.

“I've been a Celtic fan all my life, and I'll be a Celtic fan for the rest of my life,” said Lennon. “This means more to me than anything in my life, apart from my family.

“I've got a great CEO in Peter Lawwell who has brought mega success to the club. We want more, we're hungry.

“Fans will see that every now and again we're going to have a struggle. We've no doubt that we'll come out the other side stronger than ever.”

Actions, of course, will speak louder than words, however warm they are.

It remains to be seen if history will judge the Celtic board to have been hopelessly out of touch with their own fans, blowing their chance of making history as a result, or whether they will be vindicated for having the courage of their convictions.

That all now depends on whether Lennon can get these Celtic players to do their talking on the pitch.