CELTIC legend John ‘Yogi’ Hughes wondered if Kristoffer Ajer’s heart was in it when he ducked his defensive responsibility at Ibrox last month.
The club’s iconic forward, seventh in the all-time goalscoring charts with 189 strikes, was far from impressed by the Norwegian’s reactions in the 4-1 collapse at Ibrox – and said so at the time.
In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, Hughes, now 78, told author Alex Gordon, whose fifteenth Celtic tribute book, ’50 Flags Plus One’ is now on sale, he isn’t one bit surprised at the news Ajer will end his five-year association at the club this summer.
The man who played five games in the team’s march towards their ultimate triumph in Lisbon on May 25 1967 said: “When Ajer actually got out of the way of Alfredo Morelos’ shot for the second goal, alarm bells went off inside my head.
“I thought that was an immediate tell-tale sign that the defender was not 100 per cent committed to the Celtic clause.
“I said at the time that my old team-mates such as Billy McNeill, John Clark, Davie Hay or Jim Brogan would have gone out of their way to get in line with the effort.
“The thought of shirking and ducking for cover would have bee foreign to those guys. They were there to defend and they would do it to the best of their ability, no matter what it took.
“In that instance, Ajer displayed he was not going to take a sore one for the team. I thought it was an absolute shocker and I still think that way.
“So, no surprise to hear he will be on his way. It was hardly one of football’s best-kept secrets, was it?
“He will go with the club’s best wishes, that’s for sure.
“I have happier memories of the player in the green and white hoops. I will never forget his penalty-kick that sealed the remarkable quadruple treble. I doubt if any club anywhere will ever win 12 successive domestic honours over a four-year spell.
“Ajer held his nerve in the penalty-kick shoot-out against Hearts at Hampden that afternoon. It couldn’t have bee easy facing Craig Gordon, a Celtic team-mate for most of his years at Parkhead.
“But the Norwegian didn’t hesitate. There were shades of my old pal Tommy Gemmell as he raced towards the ball and fairly leathered it into the net with the keeper, on this occasion, getting out of the way.
“I am more likely to recall Hampden than I am Ibrox when I look back at what Kristoffer Ajer did for Celtic.”
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss another Big Yogi EXCLUSIVE – only in your champion CQN.