THREE months. That’s how long it took from Neil Lennon leaving Celtic to Eddie Howe rejecting them. Ninety-four days, a great many of which Celtic have spent waiting on a final answer from their preferred candidate. Or as a great many of their fans will see it, fiddling while Rome burns.

Celtic though have come out fighting against accusations of amateurish conduct in their dealings with Howe, and keen to quash rumours that it was their refusal to crack open the famous old biscuit tin in order to get their man - either from the point of view of securing his preferred backroom staff or in supporting him in the transfer market – that doomed the deal to collapse.

What is not disputed from either side is that Howe’s decision to eventually knock back the position did indeed hinge on his preferred coaching team, including Bournemouth Technical Director Richard Hughes as well as coaches Stephen Purches and Simon Weatherstone, refusing to join him in Glasgow. What is disputed are the reasons why.

Surely Celtic must have known after all the terms they would have to match to lure these men north? Well, yes, they contend. In fact, Herald Sport understands that Celtic were prepared to place full trust in Howe to perform the much ballyhooed modernisation of their footballing operation by giving him the financial backing to bring in whichever staff he so desired. From the director of football to the guy inside Hoopy the Huddle Hound, had he asked. A blank canvas.

They were also keen to address rumours there was a bone of contention over Howe being forced to work with members of the existing coaching staff, whether that be current interim manager John Kennedy, or first-team coach Gavin Strachan. It is understood that no such diktats were in place, with Howe free to choose who comprised his backroom team. Or didn’t, for that matter.

No sooner had the story hit the web than noises were being made from sources south of the border that Howe had also been unimpressed by the budget that he had been offered, as well as the recruitment plans that were in place to perform the required overhaul of the Celtic squad to get them back on a competitive footing at home and abroad.

If this was the case, Celtic were unaware of those concerns, and the goalposts hadn’t shifted on that front since Howe had given them warm encouragement he would be taking on the position.

The club, for their part, thought they had their man. But there is no getting away from the question of quite why they allowed Howe to remain non-committal on the role for such a period of time. When such a huge rebuild awaits, it defies reason, and belittles their status as one of the biggest clubs in the United Kingdom.

And for his part, Howe has no doubt strung Celtic along, leaving their board looking foolish. That will only be exacerbated if he pops up at Crystal Palace on Monday, casting Celtic as a fallback position should his preferred job not have come up.

No matter how you slice it though, the longer Celtic allowed Howe to avoid putting pen to paper, the greater the risk became they would have their pants pulled down. And that is exactly how it has played out.

Perhaps the next debate among Celtic supporters will revolve around who is to blame on their side for this fiasco, rather than who is to blame between the club and Howe. Was this an unwanted parting gift from Peter Lawwell, or a poor first impression from new man Dominic McKay? Neither man may want to lay claim to the honour.

Upon news of the Howe deal collapsing immediately came the briefing that Celtic were already in advanced talks with another party, and it is little wonder that they too want to give the impression they had a Plan B up their sleeves with just six weeks to go before the Champions League qualifiers.

That party will have to contend with being second choice in the eyes of the fans, and will therefore start a monumental job already swimming against the stream.

They will have to turn that tide with one hand tied behind their backs, with so little time now to get their own backroom team in place even before they address the gaping holes in the playing squad that have to be filled with sufficient quality between now and the end of the transfer window.

Celtic being willing to wait for Howe has ultimately backfired, no matter how soon they may be able to sign up that second name on their list.

Three months of planning for that new candidate are now gone. Ninety-four days to prepare for next season, lost.

And meanwhile, Rome still burns.