Neil Lennon admits Celtic FC's run to the round of 16 last term was "beyond our expectations" and says there is "no better competition" than the UEFA Champions League.
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His side may be up against it this term in the UEFA Champions League, but for Celtic FC manager Neil Lennon the "satisfaction and pride" garnered from last season's run to the round of 16 will never diminish.
Defeats in their first two Group H games, against AC Milan and FC Barcelona, mean the Glasgow club host AFC Ajax next week requiring a victory if they are to retain any realistic hope of replicating their 2012/13 achievement.
Twelve months ago, the Hoops overcame FC Spartak Moskva home and away – their first win on the road in this competition in 21 attempts – and, famously, Barcelona at Celtic Park to reach the knockout stage as section runners-up. For Lennon, qualification had been unforeseen.
"To come out of that group with Benfica and Spartak and Barcelona was beyond our expectations really," he told UEFA.com. "We've got a nice easy group again this year with Barça and Ajax and Milan, but for us, we're where we are. Qualifying meant everything to the club financially and obviously for the players' development and the supporters as well."
Whether the Scottish title holders ultimately progress or not, Lennon is savouring the experience and opportunities a second successive campaign among Europe's elite affords him and his squad.
"To come up against the best teams and some of the best coaches, it's all part of my own development as well," said the 42-year-old, who took charge of Celtic in March 2010. "There's no better competition in world football and it elevates you – it certainly elevates the players – to another level of playing."
To hear the full interview with Lennon, click on the video player above.