THEY may not have won the prize they coveted in the end, but even former Celtic manager Martin O’Neill is magnanimous enough to admit that Rangers’ run to the Europa League Final has given Scottish football a major boost. Now he wants Celtic to show that they too are capable of competing on the continental stage once more.

And why not? The newly-crowned Scottish champions bested Rangers over the course of the 38-game Premiership season, after all, and will enjoy the huge financial rewards that come with it as they automatically enter the group stages of the Champions League.

Getting there is one thing for Celtic. Making a fist of it at such a level is quite another, though. A fact that O’Neill knows only too well from his own spell in charge of the club, bowing out at the group stage on three separate occasions.

But the man who took Celtic to their own UEFA Cup Final in Seville back in 2003 is confident that Ange Postecoglou’s team can hold their own against the big guns that lie in wait, but only if the club back their manager with some of the funds his team have secured them in the summer.

“I’m not being sycophantic to Rangers here but it’s been a brilliant effort by them,” O’Neill said.

“That 4-2 win in Dortmund made everybody in Europe sit up and it’s been a fantastic boost for Scottish football, which has been needing one for a wee while.

“However, I believe that Celtic’s problems in Europe this season can be addressed. Going straight into the group stage of the Champions League will be a massive help in every respect, particularly on the financial side, and I think they probably need to strengthen the playing side if they’re going to get out of their group.

“That’s very difficult in itself but there’s absolutely no doubt that Celtic can improve in Europe.

“Now that Celtic have got things up and running, the manager has got control of the football side of things and is doing really well there’s no reason why they can’t contest it.

“Of course, if they go into the Champions League this year the likelihood is that they’ll be third or fourth seeds so they’ll have at least two formidable opponents above them but that shouldn’t be a big concern – it’s about being in there, first of all.”

Europe was perhaps the only black mark against the Postecoglou report card during his first season in charge at the club. A cobbled together team went out of the Champions League qualifiers to FC Midtjylland, before the Europa League group stage offered a mix of promising performances and some heavy defeats.

A place in the UEFA Conference League was a short-lived consolation, as Celtic went out meekly to Norwegian surprise package Bodo/Glimt.

That may have been a boost for Celtic’s Premiership hopes, in O’Neill’s view, reducing the workload of the players, but he also knows that Postecoglou will have something to prove in European competition next season.

“I think his experience last season will be great for him,” he said. “And maybe even being knocked out of Europe by Bodo Glimt when it happened was also a good thing for him because it meant that Rangers were playing a lot more games than they were.

“That happened to us in 2003. We played 60 games to Rangers’ 50 and lost the UEFA Cup final to Porto while they won the domestic treble. Even then, we only lost the league by one goal.

“But Ange has now had a wee bit of European experience and now he’s into the real thing. All the signs are decent that they should finally make some progress in Europe.

“The players have good belief now. I absolutely accept now that stepping into the Champions League is something else, it really is something else. Even if you are playing at home with 60,000 people roaring you on, it is still difficult. We always found the matches difficult, really difficult to play.

“But I think his own experiences this year are going to stand him in really good stead. He will be a fella who will relish the challenges in Europe now that he has got something under his belt as it were.

“When he was approaching this year I am sure that he thought deep down that domestically this is what I want to try and do, try and be strong and Europe will follow. He has got this opportunity.”

As was the case during the Brendan Rodgers era though, there are those who believe Postecoglou must curb some of his attacking instincts if he is to make any sort of impact in Europe, and it is a theory that O’Neill believes to be partially true at least.

“These are learning curves and now that he has this attacking – and I hate the word – philosophy going then the last thing you want is to lose that,” he said. “But you also need a bit of pragmatism.

“It’s just normal things: if you’re playing some of the best teams and you go gung-ho then you’ll leave gaps which top quality players can take advantage of.”