Mowbray's short reign came to an end when he parted company with the Glasgow giants this afternoon after just nine months at the club.

Last night's capitulation left Celtic 10-points adrift of Rangers - who have two games in hand - in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League and was their heaviest league defeat, outside an Old Firm derby, in 30 years.

Rafferty believes there was only one possible outcome.

"I don't suppose it has come as any great surprise unfortunately because of the way the results have been going," he told Press Association Sport.

"It's been a very topsy-turvy season for us so far. Last night's result was just one result too many for the fans. The manner in which we were defeated didn't go down well at all.

"I don't know if there is ever a right time for a manager to go, especially when he hasn't been there that long.

"A few months ago, the backing of the fans was first-class and I don't think anybody thought at that moment in time that what has happened, and how it happened, would happen.

"It's disappointing for all concerned.

"The pressure a Celtic manager is under is immense, as some of his predecessors found out as well. We are in the winning game and we like to play attractive, open football as well.

"Tony promised that to the fans but unfortunately there were so many changes for different reasons and that didn't materialise."

Celtic have confirmed coach and former skipper Neil Lennon will take interim charge of the team.

"He knows all about the club and there is nobody better," said Rafferty.

"He maybe lacks the experience in that kind of position but he is an enthusiastic person.

"As a player, he always played for the jersey so the fans can identify with that quite strongly."

And Rafferty believes Lennon is the ideal person to lift a dejected dressing room.

He added: "They need an infectious character, someone who knows what it's all about and who has played for the club and won trophies with the club.

"At this moment in time, he is probably the best choice all things being considered."

However, Rafferty is unsure whether Lennon is the right choice long-term.

"We will wait and see how that goes," he said.

"I assume his appointment will be until the end of the season and there will be a reflective period then."

Former Celtic winger Davie Provan fears the club could struggle to find a top-class manager to replace Mowbray who would meet the high expectations of the supporters.

Ex-skipper Paul Lambert has been installed as the bookmakers' favourite but stated recently he has no desire to return to the east end of Glasgow.

Provan pointed out that previous targets Owen Coyle and Roberto Martinez also turned down the job before Mowbray was installed in the hotseat last summer.

He told Sky Sports News: "It's no surprise that Celtic have taken the action they have. Now it's just a matter of where they go from here.

"I think it's fair to say it's a job, at the moment, that does not hold the type of appeal that it had when Martin O'Neill came to Glasgow.

"As recently as the summer, you need to remember that both Owen Coyle and Roberto Martinez were approached to come to Celtic and neither wanted to take up the challenge.

"It's going to be pretty difficult for Celtic to identify a top-class manager to fill Tony Mowbray's position.

"I think it's going to be a difficult appointment for Celtic in terms of getting the right type of manager, given the expectations of the Celtic support."

Asked what Lennon's immediate task is, Provan added: "Just to bring a bit of feelgood factor back to the club.

"I don't think Neil would be a serious candidate for the job in the long term, although I would hope he could become part of the coaching staff.

"Celtic have time on their side but they don't want to leave it too long."

Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld believes Mowbray's unwavering determination to stick to his footballing principles ultimately proved to be his downfall at Celtic.

Even in the wake of the defeat at St Mirren, the former Hoops boss could not resist having a dig at rivals Rangers, accusing them of "negative football".

But Auld insists Mowbray's own footballing philosophy did not fit with the huge demand for results at Celtic, just as it failed to keep West Brom in the Barclays Premier League.

He told Press Association Sport: "It looked as though it was on the cards, with the performances in the last few weeks and the inconsistency.

"Everybody knew he was under pressure.

"I thought he would have done a great job there but he wouldn't change his ways.

"Everybody loves philosophy but the players dictate the philosophy and the most important thing in his job was the results.

"I thought he did a marvellous job at Hibs and West Brom but his philosophy also knocked him down at West Brom as well when they got relegated last year."

Auld disagreed with the views of Provan, insisting the Celtic job was still an attractive one.

He said: "We have lost an awful lot of things that my boss [Jock Stein] achieved at the club and brought to the club.

"But the most important thing that we haven't lost is the passion of the supporters. We still have that tremendous crowd of people and they will never, ever change.

"They just need a bit of enthusiasm coming from the park and the dug-out."

And Auld believes Mowbray appeared to have lost that enthusiasm in recent weeks.

He added: "Was it the right time for him to go? Does anyone really know that?

"I just felt the boy, himself, wasn't enjoying it, he didn't look like he was getting any enjoyment from it.

"To me, football is the type of game where you must get up in the morning and look at yourself in the mirror and know that there's going to be a challenge.

"And he didn't look as though he was enjoying it."

Motherwell manager Craig Brown felt the departure of Mowbray after just nine months was harsh.

But the veteran boss concedes that the gulf between Rangers and Celtic meant his exit was inevitable.

He said: "It's very disappointing to see any colleague lose his job, particularly a really good guy, a gentleman.

"We played them on Tuesday in a friendly at Lennoxtown and Tony was there with his colleagues Mark Venus and Peter Grant, super guys, and I'm very upset for them.

"I think it was a bit harsh but it was becoming inevitable because of the distance between the old rivals, Rangers and Celtic.

"I think maybe they have to try to redress the balance and do something, and unfortunately usually the manager is the casualty."

Speaking shortly before Mowbray`s departure was confirmed, Frank McGarvey, who starred for both St Mirren and Celtic, told Press Association Sport: "The bottom line is that if the manager doesn't win games then he doesn't stay in a job.

"I had given him the benefit of doubt but that went in January against Kilmarnock when Scott Brown came on for Lee Naylor at left-back when Celtic needed a goal.

"That was such a strange decision and then we saw Aiden McGeady ending up playing left-back against St Mirren.

"I think he lost the dressing room and, when you do that, it's only a matter of time."

Mowbray's predecessor Gordon Strachan believes the scrutiny Old Firm managers are under is greater than ever.

Recalling Walter Smith's return to Rangers three years ago, he said: "After about six months, he said the big difference was night and day.

"He said, 'The whole thing, the media thing is absolutely brutal'. Now we've got internet chat rooms; everything can start rumours that you have to deal with, which we never had before and he said it's changed completely."

European Cup-winning captain and former manager Billy McNeill said: "If you're getting some decent results then the Celtic fans will be there in their hordes. But if you don't, you pay the penalty.

"I honestly think that the support is tremendous. There is no hiding place and I used to get letters from people giving me advice about what they thought should happen."

Referring to the St Mirren defeat, former Celtic striker Frank McAvennie said: "I've never seen it so bad.

"I was one of those who wanted Tony Mowbray but it really hasn't worked out.

"He brought in players who just were not good enough for Celtic and I didn't buy all that talk of building for the future.

"He didn't move his family up to Glasgow. I think he realised after a short period that he was in it for the short haul and that the job was too big for him."

Paul Hartley, who left Celtic for Bristol City as Mowbray arrived in the summer after two and a half years at the club, told BBC Radio Scotland: "The St Mirren game was the final straw.

"It's hard to find any positives. He got rid of too many players too quickly.

"The backbone of the side had been a lot of the Scottish lads but now there is no leadership on the park. The team looked desperate against St Mirren.

"Rangers haven't bought a player in 18 months and yet they could be 16 points clear if they win the games in hand."