LISBON Lion Bertie Auld has urged Ronny Deila to let the Celtic players off the leash.

The midfielder who dovetailed with Bobby Murdoch as the Hoops conquered Europe in 1967 believes the current crop are being suffocated by stifling safety-first tactics.

And Auld wants to see the creative operators in the squad being encouraged to display flair and adventure in the months ahead.

He said: “At the moment, two players who light my candle are Kris Commons in the middle of the park and Leigh Griffiths up front.

“To me, these two guys are the type of performers the Celtic support have been brought up watching and enjoying.

“Commons is a marvellously inventive midfielder and, of course, he has an eye for goal. I would be encouraging him to go forward where his ability would be maximised.

“Offensively, he is a threat, no doubt about it. Yes, he has to be aware of the other team breaking from midfield, but he is at his best heading towards the opponents’ goal.

“Griffiths is a natural goalscorer. You can see his first instinct is to have an attempt at goal. He wants to get an effort of target.

“He takes up good positions, makes a nuisance of himself and he’s not easy to bully, either.

“All these ingredients are so important to an attack-leader and I think Griffiths possesses them. Like a good marksman, he’ll score all sorts of goals.

“When I played with the Lions, we had strikers such as Stevie Chalmers. Willie Wallace, Bobby Lennox, John Hughes and Joe McBride.

“Defenders didn’t have a clue how to handle them because they came at them from all angles.

“If a goalkeeper fluffed a catch back then it was just about inevitable the ball would end up in the net.

“But they could score goals from distance, too, although there is little doubt Stevie did his best work right in the face of the defenders.

“I see a little bit of devilment in Griffiths and I don’t think that is a bad thing for a main striker.

“They’ll take kicks and nudges all day long and they’ve got to show they won’t be knocked out of their stride. Concentration is vital, too.

“As we all know, Celtic, unfortunately, aren’t firing on all cylinders during this campaign, but Griffiths has scored 20 goals as a lone frontman and that’s a phenomenal tally.

“I wonder how many he would get by the end of the season if he had some support up there?

“Nadir Ciftci has been brought in from Dundee United and a lot was expected of him. However, he has found it easier to score goals at Tannadice where, without any disrespect, expectation levels are significantly lower.

“At Celtic, you have to deliver. And you have to do so on a consistent basis, too.”

Auld thinks Deila did a great bit of business in last January’s transfer window in bringing in Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven from the Tayside outfit for a joint fee of £2million. However, he believes they are not being utilised to show them at their best.

He said: “When Jackie McNamara was United boss, he had Armstrong and Mackay-Steven pushing forward and giving them scope in the final quarter.

“That’s what brought them to Celtic’s attention in the first place. They looked as though they could fit into an attacking formation with ease.

“And, of course, that’s what happened at the beginning when they lifted the team with their adventure and eagerness to damage defences.

“Now, though, they’re being asked to chase back all the time and there is little doubt that has blunted their menace going forward.

“Like Commons, they have the quality to keep the opposition on the back-foot, but they are not being afforded that opportunity.

“It’s time to give them the green light to play a lot more football in the rivals’ half and see how our opponents cope with that.

“They must be given the freedom to express themselves. That’s what the Celtic fans want. In fact, that’s what the Celtic fans demand.

“They want to see players out on the park displaying the same passion they show in the stands. We’ve got to get that emotion back.”

Auld, now 77, added: “Ronny Deila will have to choose carefully during this transfer window. it’s absolutely crucial he gets it right.

“If I had a blank chequebook I would immediately look at the central defence. I’m not convinced we’ve got it right there yet.

“There’s a lot been said about the potential of Nir Bitton and Tom Rogic in the middle of the park, but, without hesitation, I would make Kris Commons my main man and get some quality around about him.

“Up front, Leigh Griffiths, as I have said, has done wonderfully well, but it’s obvious he could do with some support.

“It’s a daunting task being asked to lead the line on your own for an entire season.

“One thing is certain, the manager has a lot of hard thinking to do in the forthcoming weeks and months.

“And quality must be his watchword when he is dealing in the transfer market.

“The faithful Celtic fans deserve no less.”

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