THERE is a section of the Celtic support to whom the name of Peter Lawwell is now toxic. Supposing the long-time chief executive won the Euromillions and used the proceeds to bring Mo Salah to the club, there are those who would view his motives with suspicion.

Their apprehension over Lawwell's continued ties to Celtic, despite his summer 'retirement', loomed largest as he was pictured alongside new CEO Michael Nicholson at Celtic's away game against St Mirren just prior to Christmas, sporting a club tie and all.

And that is fair enough. For every success that Lawwell presided over, his detractors can just as easily point out instances where his prudence came at the expense of progress. The shambolic circumstances that brought an end to his long reign at the club have ensured that, in the short term at least, his legacy is one that divides opinion among the Celtic fanbase. At best.

That is why so many Celtic supporters were pleased to welcome the appointment of Dom McKay as chief executive in the summer. The former SRU man came in proclaiming a bold and fresh vision for the future. It was light on detail, publicly at least, but his focus on increased fan engagement in the early days of his tenure found favour with supporters.

This was no more apparent than on the day manager Ange Postecoglou was unveiled to the media. McKay was by his side as he faced the press, making it plain that Postecoglou was his man, and the pair were dedicated to ushering in a new era of world-class professionalism at Celtic.

There was talk of a new structure, which he denied would mean Gordon Strachan coming in as a director football. And directly after sitting down with journalists, McKay marched Postecoglou upstairs at Celtic Park where the duo would also face questions from supporters.

Alas, it would be the last that anyone would hear from McKay from then to this day. His short time at Celtic came to an abrupt and surprise end in September, just 71 days after he took up his position, with personal reasons cited.

It soon emerged through my colleague Alison McConnell’s reporting in this newspaper that there was more to the decoupling than met the eye, with McKay deemed an ‘imperfect fit’ for the club, amid a revelation that he had made an ‘inauspicious impression’ on the rest of the Celtic board.

For many Celtic supporters though, who had bought into McKay’s broad ambition to make the club aspire to something more than simply finishing above Rangers every season, there was something else at play. And they suspected that to be the spectre of Lawwell hanging over the club. Particularly when the waters were muddied over who in fact was responsible for identifying and recruiting Postecoglou, not least by the manager himself, after McKay’s departure.

Those suspicions were only stoked when long-time colleague and close friend of Lawwell, Nicholson, was appointed as acting CEO in McKay’s stead, and more fuel has been poured on that particular fire now as he has taken up the job on a permanent basis.

Having been brought to the club in 2013 by Lawwell, and serving under him as the club’s Director of Legal and Football Affairs for the last six years, the conclusion that many fans have made is that Nicholson is simply serving as a proxy for Lawwell, as his influence continues to be writ large over Celtic and their direction of travel.

At the club’s AGM in November, and still as acting CEO, Nicholson took something of a back seat to chairman Ian Bankier, who appeared out of touch and befuddled by the questions he was facing from disgruntled shareholders.

Now though, with his position confirmed, Nicholson appears more confident in grasping the nettle, with his early transfer business in the winter window impressing the Celtic support, and also clearly marking his approach out from that of Lawwell.

In years gone by, Lawwell was criticised for his inaction in January, failing to properly back managers not only for the challenges that lay ahead in the second half of the domestic season, but also failing to forward-plan for the early European qualifiers in the summer.

Too often, the Celtic squad faced a level of churn as a result at the end of numerous campaigns, thus making it harder to have a proper squad in place to give them the best possible chance of reaching the group stages of the Champions League, or later, the Europa League.

Never was this more evident than last summer, when newly arrived manager Postecoglou had to recruit 12 players and move on many others, leaving Celtic woefully short of quality and experience as they crashed out of the Champions League qualifiers yet again, this time to FC Midtjylland.

The prize for winning this season’s Scottish Premiership is of course an automatic place in the Champions League group stage, perhaps explaining Nicholson’s expeditious approach, sanctioning the signings of Reo Hatate, Yosuke Ideguchi and Daizen Maeda at manager Postecoglou’s behest before the January window had even officially opened in Scotland.

It’s a promising start, not only in terms of Celtic’s plans for improving their squad depth in this window, but in establishing Nicholson’s approach in the minds of Celtic supporters, and in differentiating himself from his mentor.

If he can go on to successfully negotiate favourable terms to make the loan moves of Cameron Carter-Vickers from Tottenham Hotspur and Jota from Benfica permanent, then his credit with the Celtic support will only be topped up further.

With Postecoglou stating that Nicholson is now the driving force behind getting Celtic’s transfer business done, leaving him to concentrate more on matters on the training field, perhaps this could be a partnership made in heaven for Celtic after all, no matter the way in which it came about.

For Nicholson to fully win over the Celtic fans, he will need his manager to deliver trophies. But it seems he is cognisant not only of how his role in that will shape the their views on the job he is doing, but that to win their full favour, he must also distance himself from the man to whom he owes his involvement in the club.