THERE will no doubt have been Celtic fans who will have looked at the back pages of the Sunday newspapers yesterday and cheered when they saw the Parkhead club are opposing the SFA’s attempt to have Ladbrokes Premiership games postponed before the Euro 2020 play-offs in March.

The governing body has never been particularly popular with supporters of the Scottish champions, or those of their top flight rivals for that matter, over the years. Banning Ryan Christie for two games for an incident in the Rangers match last month, though, has not gone down at all well in the East End of Glasgow.

Many will have interpreted the treble treble winners’ stance as a direct response to the Christie decision and applauded them for it. Their position, however, is by no means an act of retaliation.

Yes, they were furious about the punishment which was meted out. Sure, they are livid about the perceived inconsistencies of the disciplinary process in this country. But their stand makes perfect sense when you take into account their crazy schedule between now and April.

Neil Lennon’s team have seven midweek fixtures in a row domestically and in Europe after play starts up again with a William Hill Scottish Cup fourth round game against Partick Thistle at Firhill on Saturday.

If they overcome Copenhagen in the last 32 of the Europa League next month – and hopes, after their wins over Cluj, Lazio and Rennes in the group stages, are high they will be able to do so – they will have to add another two Thursday matches onto that on March 12 and 19.

That, in turn, will mean they need to move their league game against St Johnstone at Parkhead on Saturday, March 21, the following day.

If Premiership fixtures that weekend, or even just those on the Sunday, are cancelled to give national manager Steve Clarke more time to work with his players before the play-off semi-final against Israel at Hampden on Thursday, March 26, they will have to be replayed on the final midweek before the top six split.

That will result in Celtic having to negotiate 10 midweek matches on the spin. Those players who are part of the Scotland set-up, and Christie, James Forrest, Callum McGregor and Greg Taylor are all likely to be involved, could have 11 in succession.

Lennon has a wealth of talent at his disposal, strength and depth which is the envy of his opposite numbers at other Scottish clubs. He should, then, be able to cope with any injuries and suspensions his charges pick up as they play 18 games in the next two months.

Still, it is asking an awful lot, far too much in fact, to ask Celtic to squeeze another fixture into their already hectic programme. There are only so many times you can ask top class footballers to perform before it takes a toll on their mental and physical fitness and form.

Scott Brown and his team mates have, with all of the Champions League and Europa League qualifiers they had to play since back in July, already played more games than most clubs around the world this term.

Four of them – Kristoffer Ajer, Brown, Forrest and McGregor – were in the top 10 of a list of players who have the most minutes of competitive football under their belts in the first half of the season.

That is admirable and says much for their dedication to both their profession and their club. But, at the same time, it raises questions about how much is being asked of them and whether it is sustainable in the long term.

This is, of course, an important season for Celtic. They are bidding to win a record equalling ninth consecutive Scottish title. Rangers are challenging them more closely than at any time in the last eight years.

Lennon is eager to help Clarke and the country get through the play-offs and reach their first major tournament since France ’98. But is entirely understandable if he and his club are wary about jeopardising their league campaign by accommodating the national team given what lies ahead for them in the coming weeks.

Clarke first raised the prospect of having no Premiership matches on the Sunday before the Israel encounter back in November. Wouldn't it have been prudent of the SFA to consider this long before then? They knew they would, if they didn’t finish in the top two of a Euro 2020 qualifying group that included Belgium and Russia, be playing in the play-off games way back in November 2018.

It would have been wise for them to ask their SPFL counterparts to consider this request then when they could have had nine months, and several free midweeks, to work with and would have been far better placed to work something out.