The greatest, and most decorated, Celtic man of them all was Billy McNeill.

Celtic sacked him.

The most loved individual, whose managerial bond with the Hoops fans was more like idolatry, was Tommy Burns.

Celtic sacked him.

A statue and a plaque outside Celtic Park now vouch for the fact iconic status did not immunise either against dismissal.

Neil Lennon may one day have a posthumous symbol of the undeniable good he did for Celtic put on display outside the ground.

But for now he has to deal with this world – not the next.

The banner calling on Lennon to go, draped outside Celtic Park on Wednesday morning, was a tasteless gesture but the sentiment was accurate.

It was also an outward sign of inner fear – that Rangers are too good for Celtic this season.

Otherwise why would the banner writers want a change of manager?

If you do it simply by the numbers, Neil has lost the moral authority to continue in his role.

Two wins in nine matches in all competitions is appalling for a Celtic manager. Ten In A Row is fast becoming a faded dream.

Based on the evidence we have witnessed in the Premiership to date, I would go so far as to say Rangers could go through the rest of their league programme without losing a game.

On that basis, Celtic’s ambition to get a record-breaking 10 titles in succession is already over and done with.

And it’s a view shared by a large percentage of their fans. For them, the six months between now and May will feel like being buried alive. A slow tortuous feeling of suffocation while the supporters of their greatest rivals get revved up for a celebration that will register on the Richter Scale.

The backlash will be more like a bloodbath. It has already started with the banner.

The club’s board were put on six months notice of worse to come by a supporter who spoke to me in graphic terms on the radio before the embarrassing loss to Sparta Prague on Thursday.

This was a softly-spoken man of mature years, not some venom-spitting member of a feral youth movement.

He summed up the consequences of not winning the league by saying: “Next season there’ll be flags over the seats where people used to sit.”

This is what disillusioned fans do when they feel failed by the people to whom they paid their season ticket money in the form of a charitable donation.

They enter into a programme of non-violent civil disobedience. The club failed them, so their response is non-attendance.

It’s the withdrawal of their not inconsiderable financial backing at the very time when the game is heading for the financial precipice.

If Celtic’s hierarchy back Lennon it could be viewed as laudable support for someone who has lost one league game so far this season.

But it could also prove to be potentially destructive.

A strong case could have been made for Lennon doing the honourable thing and offering to resign when Sparta Prague’s fourth goal went in at Celtic Park earlier this month.

That was his Tony Mowbray moment on the night Celtic lost four to St Mirren in Paisley.

Or his John Barnes moment on the night Inverness Caley Thistle dumped Celtic out of the Scottish Cup. Both were out of work
within hours.

On Lennon’s watch the same mistakes are made repeatedly.

The same periodic rants are made about players who want out of the club or are deficient in some form or other.

Sometimes the dialogue is changed for dramatic effect.

“Fragility” becomes “softness” regarding defenders who can’t defend. “Fatigued” becomes “lazy.” And so on.

If there is literally no case for the defence, and eight goals lost to a team from the Czech Republic says there isn’t, is there a
mandate for the manager?

The manager can’t lift the team. The captain Scott Brown leaves the field earlier and earlier because he doesn’t have the legs any more.

This is what crisis looks like.

My fellow MailSport columnist Gary Holt indulged in self examination after Livingston lost to St Mirren last weekend.

He said: “If things aren’t going right you have to look at yourself first and foremost.”

Gary chose to leave the Lions of his own accord on Thursday.

Lennon doesn’t see the need for self-examination on any other measurable scale. But have the players simply stopped listening to him?

Last Sunday evening I watched Kieran Tierney go looking for a square go after Arsenal’s draw at Leeds United.

His spat with Ezgjan Alioski was less interesting than the thought of what Celtic are missing.

The £25million they took for Tierney was great business – until they squandered the pot of gold on players who are proving to be a waste of money.

No-one needed to tell Tierney what 10 In A Row meant. You would need to draw a diagram for some who replaced him.

This is what trouble looks like.

Rangers have, meanwhile, taken the club to the brink of financial peril as they tool up in a bid to thwart Celtic’s 10th title.

It’s nothing they can’t handle so long as well-heeled directors drain their personal resources and it’s an indication of the lengths they’ll go to tilt the balance of power.

To the outside world all of this might be hard to understand.

Why would so much trouble accompany what, on the face of it, looks like a petulant, playground squabble?

But they don’t live here or understand the depth of the disdain between the rival sets of supporters,

This 10 In A Row business is the meaning of life itself for the more extreme cases.

That’s why the decision to back Lennon will have one serious repercussion if it turns out to be misplaced.

Next season there’ll be flags over seats where people used to sit. You have the fans’ word for it.