THE Celtic Invincibles will be breathing a sigh of relief today after sensational news broke from across the border.

Brendan Rodgers and his all-conquering 2016/17 heroes received a monumental stroke of good fortune – and it was all down to their city rivals at Ibrox.

The Govan hierarchy opened the way to the history books for the Hoops following their premature termination of one of their player’s contracts after only six months in Glasgow.

The one-time England international (meaning he played only once for his country) had been unveiled as their so-called marquee signing in May 2016.

In hindsight, they made have been better with a dog in the street.

A BIG HAND…Scott Brown applauds the Celtic fans at the end of the 5-1 derby romp in September 2016 while Joey Barton takes stock of the landslide loss.

In November, the deal was shredded and the 34-year-old midfielder was packed off back to Burnley.

Joey Barton was the unfortunate individual who took the lead part in this sad, sorry soap opera that was played out across the city.

Outrageous promises were fired out at lightning pace by the Scouser and Rodgers, who had been named as successor to Ronny Deila around the same time, had every right to be shaking in his well-polished shoes.

After the eruption of vows, all eyes were on Joey Barton v Scott Brown, the game within the game in the first Glasgow derby of the season at Parkhead on September 10.

The outcome was a 5-1 triumph for the champions with Moussa Dembele doing somewhat better than the Englishman in his derby debut with an exceptional hat-trick.

Years later, picking his words as carefully as he did his passes, Barton admitted Celtic “pumped me in the first game I played, the first and only Old Firm game I’ve played.”

HEADACHE…Joey Barton feels the heat as Scott Brown controls the midfield.

Today, though, the former Manchester City, Newcastle and Queens Park Rangers player, now manager of third-tier Bristol Rovers, has some interesting things to say in an interview in the Scottish Sun.

Barton, who played eight times for the Glasgow side and was also suspended for three weeks by the club following a heated training ground argument with Andy Halliday, reflected: “Every time I read a Scottish paper it’s a case of ‘Flop Barton’. It’s the only blot on my copybook as a player.

“Maybe there’s only one thing for it and that means I’ll have to go back to Scotland and take charge of Hibs, Aberdeen or Hearts — and ram it down the Old Firm’s throats.

”You know what you’ve done and I don’t need anyone to tell me that I was a brilliant player.

“I know better than anyone else what I contributed when I pulled the shirt on and that’s all that matters to me. If the papers or the propaganda that clubs put out is favourable to you, then you see there is a good rapport when you go back.

“The only exception is with Rangers.

WINNERS AND LOSERS…Brendan Rodgers consoles Mark Warburton after Celtic’s 1-0 League Cup semi-final win at Hampden in October 2016 on the way to the first of the domestic treble.

“My time at Ibrox is the only black mark I’ve got in my copybook as a player. I can’t count myself successful as a Rangers player because I fell out with the manager there and wasn’t allowed enough time to prove myself.

“But look at what’s happened to Mark Warburton since we went our separate ways. It’s been a case of sacked, sacked, sacked. Now he’s a first-team coach at West Ham and look what’s happened to David Moyes since he arrived.

“But if the powers-that-be had got rid of Warburton and stuck by me, they would have won their 55th title a lot sooner than they did under Steven Gerrard.

“But Rangers made a bed for themselves with Warburton and they had to lie in it.”

So, there we have it, folks. If Joey Barton had been allowed to strut his tuff in Govan, Celtic would have been among the also-rans.

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