I HAD formed the impression that Philippe Clement’s idea of fun would be to sit in a puddle, discussing the complete works of Tolstoy with his imaginary friend Hercule while listening to Leonard Cohen’s classic album ‘Songs For The Suicidal‘.

The po-faced Belgian led me to believe his mirth bypass had been a complete success.

Turns out, dear reader, appearances can be deceptive. The Govan guru possesses a keen sense of humour and is eager to share the chuckles with a captive audience of some 60,000 patrons in the east end of Glasgow on Saturday.

Antwerp’s well-disguised answer to Billy Connolly has promised us all via Sky Sports: “I hear yesterday that they’re going to have fun. So, we’re going to have fun also.”

BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND…Philippe Clement returns to Parkhead on Saturday to duel with Brendan Rodgers in the crucial confrontation in the countdown to the crown. The Belgian was on the receiving end of a custard pie as his team lost 2-1 in December.

This undercover sultan of slapstick was lauded by some folk who should know so much better, as “an academic of the game” shortly after he had replaced Michael Beale, another from the Govan hot seat who apparently enjoyed nothing better than a thigh-slapping indulgence in merriment.

The sullen sage of the sidelines sent his dummy hurtling into orbit after his first domestic defeat as custodian of the Rangers manager’s blazer, the 2-1 loss to Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic at Parkhead on December 30.

For a man who talks about other’s “disrespect”, he totally ignored opposite number Don Cowie after his team’s well-merited 3-2 loss to Ross County in Dingwall last month, a reverse inflicted upon the visitors despite the obligatory lifeline of a VAR-assisted penalty-kick.

His comical outlook was expertly camouflaged when his team dropped two points in the scoreless stalemate against Dundee at Dens Park a few evenings later.

The Belgian made barmy observations of the home team being “very lucky”, their keeper producing a heroic performance and defenders “standing on the line to block the shot or header”.

That prompted reruns of the game for viewers who reckoned they must have undergone some sort of hypnotic trance and missed a fair perfectage of the action on Tayside.

HEARD THE ONE ABOUT..? Big Phil can’t bear to look during Celtic’s 3-3 draw at Ibrox last month.

Maybe Prof Phil was indulging in some private side-splitting, tongue-in-cheek hilarity which was lost on everyone else.

Now that dear, old Les Dawson has long since departed for the great giggle box in the sky, I believe there is still an opening for a lugubrious comedian at the Palladium.

Is the Belgian working his ticket and utilising the Ibrox club as a stepping stone to London much like Ange Postecoglou last season? To be fair, though, the Greek-Australian’s destination was a lot more conventional one.

Could the joke be on Big Phil at the weekend? This hitherto incognito connisseur of comic timing might be in the wrong place at the wrong time around 12.30pm on Saturday with a sell-out partisan crowd solidly behind the hosts. There will also be over one million viewers tuned in worldwide on satellite TV.

Anyone’s sense of humour would be pushed to the extreme in such demanding circumstance. If there are no outside influences, it must be hoped the result of the contest will be determined by the contrasting qualities of the onfield combatants.

If that is the case, then I believe Clement and his cohorts have two chances of preventing Celtic’s surge to a third successive title: Slim and none.

And the bad news for the droll inhabitant of the away dug-out is Slim has just left town.

Please remember, though, Phil, as they say in vaudeville: “You gotta laugh.”



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