Of the many criticisms that have been directed towards Celtic this term, there has been an accusation that the hunger from the support for a record-breaking tenth title was not matched by a similar appetite from the club.

If that ignores the financial investment that was made last summer – whether it was money well spent is another matter - it also put the players firmly in the dock when it comes to questions about commitment and desire.

If the ferocity of the backlash as the ten was lost in an insipid start to the campaign might have been an eye-opener to some who are not versed in the culture around the club it was not anything that caught Callum McGregor unaware.

A graduate of the Celtic academy and the most likely candidate to assume the captaincy when Scott Brown retires, the midfielder has offered a case for the defence as he made clear that the suffering of this season has not been exclusive to the supporters.

“It has been tough,” he said. “When you are so used to winning and being consistent when it is not happening, it hurts you. I think that is one of the good things about the squad – it does hurt us as players. It matters to them. They care about it and you can see that in their faces and their demeanour. It really does hurt.

“It was a once in a generation thing that we were trying to achieve so you can understand the frustration and sensitivity around it. That builds the pressure of trying to do it and it has been difficult in that sense. But we tried to look at it as a normal season and regardless of whether it is one in a row or ten or row, consistently we haven’t been good enough to go and win the league. Take away the ten in a row factor, in any season we haven’t been consistent enough to be champions.”

There was realism around McGregor’s tacit concession that the title has gone but there remains a need for Celtic to continue their recent flickering resurgence. It is too little, too late so far as the championship is concerned but regardless of the damage that has been wrecked on the campaign it is imperative that some form of stability is restored between what will be a significant rebuilding project this summer.

Tonight’s game against Aberdeen is the last of the games in hand Neil Lennon’s side have. A win against Derek McInnes, who has been under pressure of his own given the winless run Aberdeen are on, would cut the deficit to what will remain an unpalatable 15-point gap.

“When you are so close to it and have grown up your whole life around Celtic then inevitably it is going to hurt you more than some,” said McGregor.

“That’s obviously a challenge for me in being from Glasgow and being at Celtic for so long. That’s just something I have to take on my shoulders and deal with best I can. It does hurt, even more, but I then feel I have the responsibility to try and change it as much as possible and that is what I’m trying to do.

“The last four games have been good and out performance levels have been good. We have been scoring goals and defending a lot better and it is positive. But there are not too many games to go so it is a bit frustrating in that sense but we need to keep performing and see where it takes us.

“It is frustrating that we didn’t find that form when we really needed it. The focus has to be on the performance levels and the results so it is just a case of keeping going.”