Stand-in boss Gavin Strachan insists Celtic’s only regret over their ill-fated trip to Dubai was Christopher Jullien catching covid.
The Hoops dropped more points to Hibs on Monday night after the squad was left decimated by the positive test result on their return to Scotland.
The injured Frenchman picked up the virus but 13 players and three coaches – including boss Neil Lennon – have all been ordered to isolate after being flagged up by the NHS contract tracing.
Big hitters such as Odsonne Edouard, Scott Brown and Ryan Christie were among those who missed out as Celtic were caught in stoppage time when Kevin Nisbet cancelled out David Turnbull’s late free kick.
The Hoops title hopes are in tatters with Rangers 21 points ahead – and the Covid chaos has only added to the rage in among the support.
Strachan insisted the Dubai trip was all above board – and injured Jullien travelled because he needed to continue his treatment.
He said: “There’s regret that one person has caught the virus but there’s not a regret in terms of the permission we got to go and the protocols that we followed, which we have done the whole season.
“It’s regrettable that we got one positive, which we could have got at any time.
“It’s a trip that’s been done over the last few years and it has yielded very positive results, so the thinking behind it was to maintain that and try to galvanise and push in the second half of the season.
“From me as a coach, the work we did out there was absolutely fantastic.
“We had more time to work on certain elements of our game because of the good weather.
“The only regrettable thing is that someone has come back with a positive test.”
Jullien is facing four months out but still travelled, but Strachan said: “It was to maintain his treatment with the backroom staff, he went over there so we can get him back as fast as we can.”
The reasoning won’t wash with Parkhead punters who have watched their 10 In A Row dream crumble.
Strachan – who stepped in to the hotseat 11 years after dad Gordon left – said: “I can understand the frustration from everybody, because we end up playing with a weaker team, but that could have happened if we were training at home as well.
“There’s a lot of teams up and down the country, and in England as well, who are suffering with this.
“We’re on several coaches here as well, and everything that we planned to do was passed beforehand, so we were just carrying on with our same protocols.
“Obviously the situation changed when we were away in terms of the new variant, so I think that escalated things.”
Strachan – who confirmed Shane Duffy was back after posting a second negative test – admitted his head was left spinning after a chaotic return from the Middle East.
He said: “For me it’s been a bit of a whirlwind – but you’ve just got to do your prep and everyone at the club has been very supportive.
“We’ve all knuckled down, pulled together to try and get the three points. It’s just frustrating we couldn’t do it.
“It’s a tough one to take. The players put a lot into the game. I thought we’d won it with a moment of magic but it’s a frustrating time to concede and the manner of the goal is a tough one to take.
“When you factor in the disruption we’ve had over the last couple of days, I thought the performance was very good.
“There was a lot of energy in it. A lot of endeavour which you would expect and there was moments of good quality.”
Strahan was left throwing on youngsters but he revealed Alexander Okoflex getting caught with earphones in when coming off the bench was actually a pep talk from house-bound Neil Lennon.
He said: “He nearly forgot to take it out! But yes, for a young player going on for his full debut, to hear the manager’s voice in his ear was a nice touch.
“Neil said we put so much into the game, he thought we’d nicked it, and then we just couldn’t see the game out which was very frustrating.”