THEY say nothing is certain in this world except death and taxes, but we can safely add a pathetic European campaign from Celtic to that list.

On Tuesday against Lazio, there was no repeat of the 2019 heroics that saw Olivier Ntcham snatch a last-second victory.

Instead, in a game that Brendan Rodgers’ men had to win to even have a scintilla of hope of claiming third spot in Champions League group E, we were served up a languid and unimaginative performance that does nothing to motivate fans to part with their hard-earned cash next year for European trips.

I understand that the manager was missing Reo Hatate, Daizen Maeda, Liel Abada and Luis Palma – four players who can provide goals and a creative spark against higher-level opposition. But injuries and suspensions are inevitable, and here’s where Celtic’s lack of depth is exposed.

The starting XI at the Olimpico featured a past-his-prime James Forrest and Yang Hyun-jun, who just a few months ago was plying his trade in South Korea. I don’t want to place undue criticism on them, though.

Jamesy has been an incredible servant over the last 14 years, while Yang is being asked to produce at a level that he’s not ready for. Mikey Johnston came off the bench and added a bit of flair, but we know he’s not the answer.

Regular readers will be aware of how underwhelmed I was with the summer transfer window.

Champions League money was guaranteed and £25m came in through Jota’s move to Saudi Arabia. Peel back the layers, though, and this is where things become worrying.
Who’s in charge of recruitment? Mark Lawwell, the son of Peter Lawwell, current chairman and ex-CEO.

Was such an appointment the result of nepotism or did he get the job on merit?
Well, his CV isn’t exactly stellar and there has been some confusion over what his role was at his previous employer, the City Football Group (CFG).

After announcing his appointment last July, a Celtic statement outlined that Mark Lawwell had spent 10 years as head of scouting and recruitment at the CFG which covers clubs in Europe, Australia, Japan, South America and the USA.

However, in 2016, Uefa and The Times described him as City’s “scouting information and content manager”.

Even if he did hold two separate positions during his CFG tenure, have they prepared him to hold such a crucial role at Celtic?

At last Wednesday’s AGM, my jaw dropped after I read what Michael Nicholson had to say when asked about the circumstances of Mark Lawwell’s Celtic arrival.

The CEO supposedly replied that he came with former boss Ange Postecoglou and any questions about that appointment should be directed at the Aussie. Since when do managers, or head coaches, bring in their own head of recruitment? And if Mark Lawwell is held in such high regard by Postecoglou, why didn’t he take him to Spurs?

If this is true, Celtic can get away with such a dereliction of duty because the Scottish Premiership is so terrible. But time and time again in Europe, the shortcomings of the boardroom become all too clear.

Following the 2-0 defeat to the Italians, Rodgers made no secret of what he thinks about the current state of the squad and its ability to make an impact in the Champions League.

“It’s the overall quality,” he lamented.

“We need to have our very best players available going into this competition. We have been competitive but what makes the difference is that bit of experience and genuine quality. That’s something we can hopefully resolve over the next couple of windows.

“This group has gained more experience and shown they can compete in some games - but we need to add quality. That’s the glaring thing that stands out.”

While Rodgers will seek to rectify the lack of depth in January and beyond, there was no path set out by the board at the AGM on where the club is going. No vision, no strategy, no ambition.

I keep hearing that over £70m is sitting in the bank, but what good is that money if they don’t have the correct people behind the scenes to ensure it’s spent effectively?

Those at the top are far too comfortable, and on the surface, just want to be one step ahead of Rangers. 

Even in the Premiership, performances are becoming quite inconsistent, and last weekend’s draw with Motherwell should give cause for concern ahead of Sunday’s trip to St Johnstone (kick-off 12pm).

The manager also needs to shoulder some of the blame – the tempo is far too slow and the threat of Kyogo has been partly nullified due to Rodgers’ tactics.

Don’t be shocked, though, if the Hoops dish out a hammering against the league’s second-bottom club and the mood lifts.

However, this is where more fans need to take a stand and say enough is enough.
Yes, domestic duties are the bread and butter and must always be taken care of, but Celtic are using the wrong measuring stick. 

It doesn’t feel like that long ago, to me at least, that they were in a Uefa Cup final. The following season, when Peter Lawwell became chief executive, Martin O’Neill spoke of how “we may have to get used to life in the slow lane”.

And a few decent seasons in Europe aside, Celtic have been on a path of managed decline to the point where they’re largely viewed as Champions League whipping Bhoys.

There’s a palpable need for change - a reevaluation of priorities and strategies, but the prospect of imminent transformation seems bleak. Sadly, too many people are content with being a big fish in a small pond.