"A true Celtic man" is how the club's chief executive Peter Lawwell described Neil Lennon as his long-anticipated departure finally came to pass this week.

The fact is though that the timing of his resignation has cast doubt in many supporters' minds over his credentials as a Celtic legend, a status which appeared to be the accepted wisdom among the majority of fans not so long ago. In fact, there are those who now even question the assertion of Lawwell that Lennon holds the club dear to his heart, or more pointedly, above his own self-interest.

That Lennon's eventual exit from Celtic came by his own hand, killing theories that he was holding out for a payoff stone dead, seems to have done little to shake those with such convictions. If he really was a Celtic man, they argue, he would have resigned long ago. Perhaps after the Champions League exit to Ferencvaros. Or the back-to-back Europa League humiliations at the hands of Sparta Prague. Probably the majority of fans expected him to resign after the League Cup exit to Ross County. And certainly at a point when 10-in-a-row was still salvageable.

Some would argue that moment came as early as November, with Celtic's title chances rating between slim and hee-haw by the time their second defeat to Rangers of the season rolled around in early January. But still he grimly held on.

Through the post-Dubai storm, he remained at the tiller of a ship that was listing from one crisis to another and continuing to leak points at an alarming rate.

So far had Celtic fallen behind Rangers by the end of January that even the recent five-game winning streak was met by a universal shrugging of shoulders. When the next slip came though, as it did against Ross County, it was certain it would once again be met by fury.

The question remains as to why this was the final straw for Lennon, when patience among supporters had snapped long ago. Given Lennon's famously competitive nature and the willingness to overcome the odds that made him such a success as a player, the likelihood is that until Sunday night, he still felt there was a possibility of somehow pipping Rangers to the title, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. If so, he was guilty of delusion on a grand scale. And it is those who are paid handsomely to sit in judgment of his performance who have led Celtic and Lennon to this unhappy and long overdue parting of the ways.

The refusal of Lawwell and principal shareholder Dermot Desmond to pull the trigger on Lennon could be seen as admirable loyalty to a man who in their eyes at least, deserved the time to put things right given his previous service to Celtic. In truth, far from protecting Lennon and his legacy as a club legend, they have certainly jeopardised, and perhaps, destroyed it. As well as tarnishing their own legacies in the process.

There is precious little honour in the corner refusing to throw in the towel when their fighter is punch drunk and battling on on his reserves of courage alone, and what long-term damage has been done to his job prospects elsewhere in football as a result remains to be seen.

The Celtic board can hardly say the pandemic and the absence of fans from stadia has made them blind to their anger, when there have been protests both outside the ground and at Lennoxtown. Ignorant perhaps, even dismissive, but not blind.

That refusal to bow to fan pressure has largely been interpreted as arrogance, both on the part of Lennon and on the part of the board.

Whether Lennon's long and previously hugely successful association with Celtic is the image which ultimately endures, as his former team-mate and recent critic Chris Sutton hoped on Tuesday night following his resignation, time will tell.

Through Lennon's horrific treatment off the park during his years in Scotland, the club's support stood by his side and professed that as a Celtic man, he would never walk alone. It would be hugely ironic if he was unable to now set foot inside Celtic Park as those fans had now turned so against him.

Perhaps when the anger and resentment at losing 'The Ten' has simmered and settled a little, then it will be his record as the only man in Celtic history to win a Treble as both a player and a manager that will stand the test of time.

What is "a true Celtic man", after all? That Lennon has failed in spectacular and largely embarrassing fashion this season is indisputable. But if being a Celtic man involves casting out those among your number who have contributed so much in the past when they fall short of the standard required, then what is such a title worth in any case?