CELTIC face eight Cup Finals in their quest to pull off Mission Impossible.
That’s the view of former Hoops striking great John Hartson as Ange Postecoglou continues to guide the team towards the title following the wreckage of last season.
The Greek-Australian inherited “a mess” with the team limping in 25 points adrift in their failed attempt to lift a historic tenth successive championship.
Now, with the club heading in the home straight, they are three points clear with eight games to play as they zero in on the crown and the chance to earn a whopping £40million in next term’s Champions League.
Postecoglou went about the summer rebuild with a verve and vigour that saw 12 recruits while players such as skipper Scott Brown, striker Odsonne Edouard, centre-back Kristoffer Ajer and Scotland international midfielder Ryan Christie headed for the exit.
MAN ON A MISSION…Ange Postecoglou with the newly-won Premier Sports League Cup in December last year.
Welsh legend Hartson said: “Celtic have put themselves in this unbelievable position from nowhere, from nine points behind at one stage.
“At the start of the season, Celtic couldn’t win the league. Impossible. It was a mess that Ange took over. At the time, I said it was a transitional period.
“They lost their centre-forward, their best player. They lost their best centre-half. They lost their captain. They didn’t have a manager. The chief executive left. It was a cse of: What do we do now?
“They brought in Ange. Nobody has ever heard of him. No disrespect, but people were asking: ‘Who is this guy?’.
“Even me. I said I thought they should be going for somebody with more of a name. It was total ignorance from myself. There were plenty of us ignorant. ‘Who is this guy? What’s he done? Where’s he been?’.
“But he’s come in and he’s just done unbelievably. The players he has recruited, the style of football. He has united the full stadium from being very toxic for periods last season.
ON A WING AND A SLAYER…wide Bhoy Filipe Jota has been a roaring success.
“The way that they play, the Celtic way, front foot, aggressive, go forward, score goals. To think that they’re the position they are in – and they can possibly win the league – is just remarkable.
“Ange has already said that he wants to win EVERY competition that he goes into. Europe has been disappointing this season, he would acknowledge that and want to improve, but if you look at the Scottish Cup, Celtic are in it to win it.”
Hartson continued: “A few weeks ago, Celtic had two players on the pitch – Greg Taylor and Callum McGregor – who weren’t Ange’s signings.
“Think of the impact his signings have made. They bring a young lad over from Benfica on loan. Jota, what a player. Look at Liel Abada, what about his numbers? Incredible. Fourteen goals from right wing. Look at Kyogo Furuhashi and the three other Japanese players – then the likes of Joe Hart. They wrote Hart off before he had even made a save.
“Anthony Ralston has been excellent. Carl Starfelt has come in for a bit of criticism.
“I still think there are frailties defensively at times, but the way they play. Expansive. Aggressive. Outscore the opposition. Front foot. High intensity. What he demands every single game. Those demands won’t stop.
“Ange has united everyone, united the crowd and brought everyone together. He has given everyone a belief, that’s what he’s done and the team are playing very well.
SAFE HANDS…Joe Hart has made the critics eat their words.
“He’s very humble, he’s got so much desire and wants to win. He wants to improve players, which he has done and he will appreciate if leaves Celtic down the line with titles and four or five Cups, he will be considered as with all the other greats.”
Hartson, who won three titles, two Scottish Cups and a League Cup while scoring 109 goals after being signed by Marin O’Neill in 2001, said: “Celtic have Kyogo to come back. They have Abada, Jota, Maeda and James Forrest back in form. I’d say Celtic are stronger.
“It’s all to play for. There are eight Cup Finals now.”
Reflecting on his old club’s 3-1 weekend victory over Livingston, Hartson, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “I thought they played very well and they moved the ball really well on the plastic pitch.
“They came out with the right intensity, knowing it would be difficult. It always is at Livingston as their record shows. They had a bit about them in terms of the way they approached it. They pressed high. They never let Livingston out.
“James Forrest had a really good game. And Jota is Jota. When he gets the ball, he wants to make something happen, whether it’s a cross or he goes past somebody.
“I thought the balance of the team looked really good. It was a really good win on a difficult pitch and now there are eight games to go.”