CAPTAIN marvel Callum McGregor and Greg Taylor were the only two starters in the 3-0 midweek derby rout who were not signed by Ange Postecoglou.

Nine new Bhoys were in the starting eleven – Joe Hart, Josip Juranovic, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Carl Starfelt, Matt O’Riley, Reo Hatate, Liel Abada, Giorgos Giakoumakis and Filipe Jota – as part of the squad’s whirlwind of change since the Greek-Australian arrived in June.

By a remarkable coincidence, anchorman McGregor and left-back Taylor were the only players who kicked off in Neil Lennon’s side the time Celtic previously topped the Premiership back on August 3 2020.

On that sunny afternoon under bright blue skies in the east end of Glasgow, the Hoops kicked off their quest for a historic tenth successive title. It was the campaign opener and Hamilton Accies provided the opposition.

THE OPENER…Odsonne Edouard taps in the first goal of his hat-trick in Celtic’s 5-1 win over Hamilton Accies on August 3 2020.

A hat-trick from Odsonne Edouard and singles from Jeremie Frimpong and Patryk Klimala made certain the points remained at Parkhead and, despite Steven Gerrard’s side winning 1-0 at Aberdeen the previous day, the champions returned to the pinnacle on goal difference.

So far so good.

The following weekend, Lennon’s men conceded their position at the summit when they dropped two precious points in a 1-1 draw against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park. Ryan Christie gave the visitors the perfect start with a long-range free-kick in the 11th minute, but Chris Burke levelled with a 24th-minute penalty-kick beyond Vasilis Barkas, making his debut following his £4.5million arrival from AEK Athens.

AGONY…Callum McGregor suffers in Celtic’s dreadful 2020/21 campaign.

ECSTASY…Callum McGregor celebrates the 3-0 drubbing of Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side in midweek.

On the same day, Gerrard watched his team ease to a 3-0 victory over St Mirren at Ibrox to go top. Unfortunately, Celtic never recovered their pole position and the rest, as they say, is cruel history.

Six months later, Lennon lost the job he loved as the wheels came off the season in spectacular fashion with the trophy cabinet left bare for the first time in 11 wonderful and successful years which included a phenomenal treble treble which eventually became a quadruple treble when the Hoops claimed the delayed Scottish Cup against Hearts in December 2020.

Back then, the four goalscorers in the first two league outings – Edouard, Frimpong, Klimala and Christie – are no longer at the club. Over an intriguing passage of time since the opening-day win over Accies EIGHTEENmonths ago and the 15 players utilised that day, the quartet of departures have been joined through the Parkhead exit by Hatem Abd Elhamed, Kristoffer Ajer, Scott Brown and Olivier Ntcham while Mohamed Elyounoussi returned to his parent club Southampton.

WE STAND ALONE…Callum McGregor and Greg Taylor have gone through 18 traumatic months.

For the record, the team that last presided in top spot until Ange Postecoglou restored the Hoops to their rightful place in midweek read: Bain; Frimpong (sub: Elhamed 86), Jullien, Ajer, Taylor: Brown, McGregor; Forrest, Christie (sub: Dembele 86), Elyounoussi (sub: Ntcham 70), Edouard (sub: Klimala 86). Unused subs: Barkas, Bitton, Soro, Rogic, Bolingoli.

Today, though, Postecoglou can guide the team to a four-point advantage – for the time being, anyway – if Celtic can complete their hat-trick of league successes over Motherwell, having already won 2-0 in Lanarkashire and 1-0 in Glasgow.

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report and the best in action images from Motherwell v Celtic this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.

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