WITH five minutes to go at Celtic Park on Thursday night, and with Celtic pounding down the AC Milan door in search of an equaliser, the camera panned to the home dugout where Neil Lennon sat seemingly sanguine in his chair.

By his own admission, the Lennon which leads Celtic these days is a markedly different figure from the one of his first spell in charge of the club, but he has fired back at those who say he may have lost his appetite for the challenge.

Just because he isn’t ranting and raving around his technical area, doesn’t mean it hurts him any less when a week such as the one just past roll around, with the eventual defeat to the Italian giants on home turf coming hot on the heels of a hugely disappointing showing as Rangers ransacked Celtic Park for three points.

Lennon has reassured supporters though that a lack of animation on the touchline doesn’t translate to a lack of fire in the belly.

“I'm not convinced being more animated in the dug-out would work with the current generation of players,” Lennon said. “I have changed my demeanour and I think it's worked.

“People over analyse things. My touchline behaviour isn't going to make them play any better or worse.

“I'm used to the way my team works. I still get a bit animated but I don't want to permeate any anxiety over to the players.

“When things don't go for me or the team, we get analysed. Every nuance is scrutinised to death. But I'm not convinced that's the way forward.

“And it would be a mistake for people to think I've not got the same fire in my belly that I had before. I have it more than ever, especially when my back's against the wall.

“That's when your management and man-management really comes to the fore. It's about looking after the players at a difficult time – if you can call it that.

“It's two games against two very good teams. We haven't been at our best for a lot of understandable reasons.”

Chief among those reasons in Lennon’s view is the unfortunate personnel issues caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, and taking everything into account, Lennon can barely recall a tougher week in all his years in the dugout.

“It's been one of the hardest I've had as a manager,” he said. “The international break was really tough because we were getting one call off after another.

“We didn't get the players together until Friday and had to try and prepare them for a huge game. Off the back of that, we had to play a really good side in AC Milan.

“I'm bitterly disappointed that we lost the game because I hate losing at any time, especially at home.

“We started brightly but gave away a really poor goal. We need to tidy up defensively in certain areas. But in the second half we were excellent and could have got something out of the game.

“That gives me a lot of things to think positively about going into another big week.

“But it's been very stop-start either due to injuries or the players' season being disrupted.

“We just need to settle everyone down and get a consistent flow – not just in terms of team selection but for games and training purposes as well.”

Far from feeling he is diminished as a manager by his new approach to life at Celtic this time around, Lennon contends that had such a set of circumstances befallen the club during his first spell in charge, he may not have been able to handle it as adroitly as he is at the moment.

His serenity in the face of what he perceives as the hysteria of the past seven days is in fact the very approach that will see both him and his team emerge stronger from the experience.

“I cope with [things] differently, 100 percent,” he said. “It's totally different now.

“I deal with it better. I wouldn't say I'm more philosophical about it but I take a step out and look in.

“I understand that there are mitigating circumstances. Of course there are things I want to do better myself.

“And I want the players to do better. But I don't take it as badly or as personal as I used to.

“That doesn't mean I don't care. Obviously, I do. But I don't get caught up in the knee jerk reactions and stuff like that.

“It's not productive. Sometimes I question myself. I ask: 'Do you care enough'? But of course I do.

“I just handle it with a far more measured approach.”