Almost exactly one year ago, an unmistakable mood of uncertainty was swirling around Celtic Park.
A club who had their 10-in-a-row dreams serrated by a thousand cuts in the most public and, at times, undignified fashion.
But if the last season can inform us — and Celtic supporters in particular — of anything, it is that vows to keep the faith amid turmoil and reconstruction very often reap dividends.
Such tentative faith was, admittedly, tested at the beginning of the Premiership campaign when Celts’ new boss, Greek-Australian surprise package Ange Postecoglou, was still adjusting to an unrelenting environment.
Postecoglou would not be the first, or the last, manager dropping into the Old Firm furnace needing time to transform ideas, approach and new players into cast-iron results.
For all the hullabaloo surrounding Celtic’s recapturing of the Premiership from Rangers, a deserved success following a relentlessly drilled-down second half of the season, steamrollering most of the rest to mere cannon fodder, the actual restorative ‘journey’ spluttered initially.
It doesn’t take long for the glint of a knife to be sharpened by the more hysterical elements within the respective Old Firm fanbases — and Postecoglou’s troubled beginnings only lent weight to those who believed he was an outsider and not a sufficiently big enough ‘name’ to weave Celts back to title contention.
With the benefit of hindsight and, again, patience, no one at Parkhead these days is remotely bothered that the club’s initial pursuit of Eddie Howe to replace Neil Lennon failed to materialise. ‘Big Ange’ is a mighty man in Glasgow’s East End.
Yet Celtic took their time. Starting the League season with a 2-1 defeat away to Hearts, losing to Rangers and sunk by Livingston and their plastic pitch offset goal-laden home victories.
The consistency craved was yet to be established. In reality, it wasn’t until October before Postecoglou’s brief began to take shape.
Getting the knack for chiselling out vital wins away from home against the likes of Aberdeen, Hibernian and Motherwell are what title successes are made of. And for the most part — Europe a sore exception en route — Celtic did not look back domestically.
Postecoglou has succeeded in keeping his men focused and he spends little time dwelling on setbacks.
That said, the lessons of making a fast start to the new season, which begins at home to Aberdeen today, will be apparent if the manager asks his players to briefly reflect on a year ago.
Celtic hope that their summer build from strength, as is the demand for all successful teams, will provide a platform this term, particularly with an arguably stronger Rangers around.
Many at Ibrox consider the Gers to be the superior outfit, if only evidenced by their exhilarating run to the Europa League Final, where they have a handle on an environment which Postecoglou is yet to marshal.
Nevertheless, Celtic’s consistency and their high-octane brand of attacking play were crucial to capturing the title. The obvious question is: can this be sustained once again?
While you can never satisfy everyone, murmurs of discontent about Celts’ close-season transfer activity are isolated compared to previous angsty summers.
If a sizeable chunk of the club’s transfer budget has gone on the permanent signings of Jota, Daizen Maeda and Cameron Carter-Vickers, then it needed to be done. Those three players especially give the team muscle, guile and balance in key areas of the pitch.
Paying out £3.75m for Alexandro Bernabei from Argentine club Lanus is a considerable outlay for raw potential, but a free transfer swoop for Postecoglou’s compatriot Aaron Mooy hints at extra midfield steel ahead.
Postecoglou is not for being pinned back by the drift of dead wood either. Loan moves for misfits such as Vasilis Barkas, Boli Bolingoli, Ismaila Soro, Osaze Urhoghide and, probably, Albian Ajeti, may not be perfect outcomes — but it leaves the ruthless Australian with those he wants around.
Elsewhere, hopes are high regarding David Turnbull’s return to action.
Restricted in game time last season due to injury, the dynamic midfielder, who has been in pre-season scoring form, will add zip behind the attack. Then, of course, there is Kyogo Furuhashi, the personification of Postecoglou’s reshaped, bold unit.
That Celtic swept their way past the rest without the Japanese striker for over three months of 2021/22 is testament to the options available.
Postecoglou was at one stage accused of helping aggravate Kyogo’s hamstring problem, but now it appears all systems go.
If he and Giorgios Giakoumakis stay fit then Celtic boast a razor-sharp, predatory partnership which, at the time of writing, appears stronger and more versatile than Rangers’ options.
And of course, coming soon, the Champions League music wafting around Celtic Park.
Those insatiable demands to keep standards high and go on a winning streak ensured Celtic reaped the benefits of automatic group stage qualification, lightening the load between early-season domestic and Euro responsibilities.
Rangers, meanwhile, have some negotiating to do in a busy August before they can hope to join the prestigious club.
Still, considering the chastening experiences of Europe’s premier competition in Postecoglou’s maiden season — when Celtic were already dumped out by Midtjylland before August — it is a stretch to suggest they can make waves this time, even allowing for a kindly group draw.
Like Rangers, the Europa League is where the Old Firm should be proving themselves — and the Celtic support expects much more.