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BERTIE’S WAR CRY!

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BERTIE AULD insists it is time Celtic shattered their miserable five-game Scottish Cup semi-final losing sequence against the various Rangers clubs.

The Lisbon Lion is looking forward to seeing Brendan Rodgers’ team bringing down the curtain on a memorable campaign with a silverware clean sweep in May.

Auld, who celebrated his 79th birthday last week, said: “Those statistics against Rangers (and Sevco Rangers) are horrendous and I have to be honest and admit I didn’t realise they were so bad.

“It’s incredible to think the Ibrox side have managed to get through in the past five semi-finals.

“I’m delighted to say I didn’t play in any of them!

“Last season’s semi-final failure probably went a long way to Ronny Deila leaving the club.

“How could (Sevco) Rangers, from a lower division, beat a Celtic team that had won the four previous Premiership titles and were on their way to a fifth?

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense, although I am aware they didn’t actually win the game.

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“Of course, it ended 2-2 after extra-time, but Celtic should have done enough to prevent the game going to the lottery that is penalty-kicks. It should never have been allowed to reach that conclusion.

“So, it is definitely time that run comes to an end when the teams meet next month.”

Auld, who was Jock Stein’s midfield commander alongside Bobby Murdoch in the all-conquering sixties line-up, said: “Listen, I don’t believe in hoodoos, jinxes or anything like that.

“All that sort of talk is just nonsense.

“Each game is judged on its own merit. When did the run start – 1960 when Rangers won a replay 4-1?

“There won’t be too many players from that Celtic team who will be involved on April 23!

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“So, let’s view the game in sharp focus. Brendan Rodgers’ men have the chance to make their own history.

“It’s a bit of a surprise that only three Celtic teams have won the domestic treble and I was fortunate enough to be to be in the squad that managed it twice.

“The first came in the unforgettable 1966/67 season when we won everything, including, of course, the European Cup.

“We had a wee hiccup the following year, although we still won the league championship to make it three in a row on our way to nine successive titles.

“The season after that, however, we got our act together again and won the lot in Scotland. Not bad going.

“Martin O’Neill managed the feat in his first season as Celtic manager in 2000/01.

“Coincidentally, another Irishman in Brendan Rodgers could achieve the same goal in his debut campaign.

“Celtic had beaten (Sevco) Rangers three times before the recent 1-1 draw at Parkhead.

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“I’m not even going to talk about the refereeing performance, but lessons were there to be learned in that encounter, that’s for sure.

“I watched that game as it ticked along and I couldn’t help recall the words of my old gaffer, Jock Stein.

“Big Jock used to hammer it into every player before a game: ‘Win your personal battle and the team will win the war’.

“Basically, he was telling us we had to be successful in every 50/50 challenge.

“If you lost out on a few of those tackles under our manager’s watchful eye, then there was every chance you would also lose your place in the team.

“Obviously, he never advocated kicking anyone or stooping to underhand tactics.

“Simply, he expected to do the basics of your job and that would lay the platform for the team to turn on a wee bit of style.

“Another of his sayings was: ‘You’ve got a licence to entertain, so don’t lose the chance to utilise that’.

“But all the players knew we couldn’t do that without possession of the ball.

“And to get that, we needed to win our tackles and make sure we didn’t give it away cheaply.”

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Auld added: “I look at Brendan Rodgers’ team and I see lots of players who know how to put on attractive football.

“Look at the likes of Scott Sinclair, James Forrest, Patrick Roberts, Stuart Armstrong and the others. They are all classy performers.

“Jozo Simunovic, Dedryck Boyata and Erik Sviatchenko like to ball out of defence.

“Mikael Lustig and Kieran Tierney are fabulous attacking full-backs who work hard in every game and Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths are two exceptional goalscorers.

“Craig Gordon is one of the best goalkeepers in Europe and Scott Brown has been a revelation in this campaign. He’s answered his critics and I’m delighted for the boy.

“No disrespect to Rangers, but Celtic have by far the superior players.

“Genuinely, I don’t think you can argue that fact.

“But when they take that field at Hampden for the Scottish Cup semi-final next month, the Celtic players must remember they won’t be able to do much if they haven’t got ball-winners in the team.

“If they take care of the basics, I’m sure that dreadful sequence will end on this occasion.”

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