Neil Lennon says he finally feels vindicated as Celtic manager after watching his side clinch their first Scottish Premier League title in four years following a 6-0 rout of Kilmarnock.
The Hoops needed just a point but did it in style as four first-half goals put the result beyond doubt before the break. It is a first league title for Lennon in only his second full season in charge after taking over from Tony Mowbray in March 2010.
The former Celtic captain won five SPL championships and reached a UEFA Cup final in seven years as a player for the Old Firm club and clinched last season's Scottish Cup as manager.
But Lennon said his first league title as manager was the best moment of his career as it meant he could finally emerge from the shadows of former Celtic managers. "It's the greatest moment of my professional life. It doesn't get much better than this really," Lennon said.
"It's not easy winning titles and we've done it emphatically. When you are a player you are part of a team. You had players like Henrik Larsson, Chris Sutton, Stan Petrov, Paul Lambert, Alan Thompson and Johann Mjallby to lean on.
"But when you are a manager it's a lonely job and you have to make the decisions. You get criticised for them, you get praised for them but you have to keep a level head. I'm only new in this job as well. It's only my second season and it's a huge job with huge expectations but I feel vindicated now.
"I felt as if I was on probation but now I feel like the Celtic manager. I was walking behind Martin O'Neill, Gordon Strachan, Wim Jansen, Billy McNeil, Davie Hay and Jock Stein and now I can step out from behind them and walk alongside them.
"It is a fantastic feeling for me. Ultimately you are judged on championships. Cups are not enough. To win a championship in your country is special. It's that hard we hadn't won it for three years. To win it today is a great day for the club and a great day for the supporters and a great day for the Lennon family as well."
Doubles from Charlie Mulgrew and Gary Hooper as well as strikes from Glenn Loovens and Joe Ledley saw Celtic cruise to the championship against Kilmarnock as they opened up a 21-point gap with five games remaining.
However, things looked very different at the beginning of November when Lennon's side trailed Rangers, who were later docked ten points for entering administration in February, by 15 points.
Celtic team 'will grow'
The Celtic manager said he even considered his own future when his side trailed Kilmarnock 3-0 at half-time in October before they staged a second-half comeback to claim a 3-3 draw.
And Lennon praised his players for the remarkable run they went on between November and March, when they claimed 17 wins in a row that helped propel them back to the top of the league.
"Football is a bit unpredictable and nothing surprises me. I always believed in the team and always felt we would find consistency," Lennon said. "We put on a fantastic run of 17 wins together and that is pretty special at any level of football.
"To play in the style and quality they did totally justifies and cements that they are worthy champions without any shadow of a doubt. I'm so happy for the players. They're the ones who have done it. They are babies in terms of football and have come in for unjustified criticism but they have proved beyond doubt they are the best team in the country.
"They will grow as they are not anywhere near their peak yet. Georgios Samaras is the oldest player in the team at 27 so that says a lot about their youth. At times there is a naivety about them which I totally comprehend, but to win the championship over 33 games is a fantastic achievement."