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EXCLUSIVE! BIG YOGI: ‘TIME FOR BHOYS TO SILENCE IBROX NOISE’

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JOHN HUGHES – ‘Big Yogi’ to the adoring Celtic fans in the sixties – thrived on playing games against old enemy Rangers.

In only his third appearance for the first team, the powerhouse attacker scored at Ibrox in a 3-2 League Cup win in August 1960.

Hughes, at the age of 17, thundered in the winning goal to send the travelling fans home happy – and condemn the home support to total silence.

Yogi is hoping that will again be the case when his old club travel to Govan on Premiership business at the weekend.

Here, in an exclusive interview with CQN, the eighth-highest goalscorer in Celtic history gives his insightful views on the forthcoming challenge.

You have got to hope Brendan Rodgers and the lads take the opportunity on Sunday to wipe the floor with the opposition and shut up once and for all the noise coming from Ibrox.

Title race? What title race? If Celtic win, they will move nine points ahead with a fixture in hand. Game over.

There’s a lot being said about how well Graeme Murty’s side performed in the goalless draw at Parkhead before the turn of the year. Listen, for whatever reason, Celtic didn’t turn up that afternoon.

Brendan’s team just couldn’t get out of first gear and were unable to raise the tempo to the usual standard. They looked tired, a collection of players who hadn’t enjoyed a proper pre-season break and who needed to take a rest.

However, I sincerely believe they will be up for this game on Sunday. In fact, I am sure they will. Players like to answer their critics, they enjoy ramming their words back down their throats. That’s why I reckon we’ll see a Celtic team ready to go on this occasion.

I’m sure I’ll see players who will dictate the pattern of play right from the off and keep them on the backfoot.

ON THE SPOT No.1…I send Rangers goalkeeper Billy Ritchie the wrong way for Celtic’s opener in the 2-1 League Cup Final victory in 1965.

It would be great to wallop in five as we did on that joyous occasion last April, but I’ll settle for any kind of victory in this one. Just so long as three points are heading back to the home of the champions when the dust settles.

As it happens, I think Graeme Murty has got his team playing a lot better and there has been an improvement, but, let’s face it, after Pedro Cainxinha’s efforts the only way was up.

He has gathered players around him who appear to know what the club is all about and they might just give that little bit extra for the cause.

Good for them, there’s nothing wrong with that. When I played for Celtic, I was also a fan. When we were winning things and beating everyone in sight, I got double the satisfaction.

But spare me the claptrap that a player who isn’t good enough to play for a mediocre English Championship side is going to threaten Celtic at the weekend.

Jason Cummings, who is obviously surplus to requirements at Nottingham Forest – who were 15th in the league the last time I looked – scored a hat-trick in the 4-1 win over Falkirk at the weekend and suddenly I’m reading and hearing he could be a key man against Brendan’s side. He is going to sort out Celtic, I’ve been told.

Really? I saw a little bit of that game on TV on Sunday. All I would say is Paul Hartley has got a massive job on his hands if he is to ever get that club back into the top flight.

They were all over the place at Ibrox. I had watched another Championship side, Morton, at Parkhead 24 hours earlier and I have to admit I liked the disciplined manner in which Jim Duffy had set out his team.

They were well organised and were quick to cover when Celtic were on the ball. I lost count of the times they had 11 bodies deep in their own half when the Hoops came forward.

There was no out-ball as they concentrated on closing down space. If players are prepared to work hard for each other, put their bodies on the line in the cause of the team, then they will always give their opponents a difficult 90 minutes.

Morton did that against Celtic – this was their Cup Final. They certainly rose to the occasion.

ON THE SPOT No.2…this time I strike the ball to Ritchie’s right and Celtic are on their way to a memorable trophy success.

Having said that, I was more than a little concerned that my old club started in less-than-convincing fashion yet again. Okay, they knew a goal would come – we ALL knew a goal would arrive at some stage.

But that sort of thinking can be dangerous. I was brought up to believe you had to work for your rewards in the game. Big Jock Stein would hammer that into you before you ran onto the field, irrespective of the opposition.

We could have been been playing Real Madrid or Raith Rovers, the doctrine was always the same: “Get out there and do the business.”

Somehow, I don’t think Brendan will be having to work too hard at motivating his players before this one.

The opposition have set themselves up for a mighty fall, as far as I’m concerned.

How on earth can their manager say his players roared with delight when they heard they were drawn to play Celtic in next month’s Scottish Cup semi-final? Where is the logic in that?

You’ve just been handed a tie against the team that has won all four domestic trophies that have been up for grabs since Brendan took over.

You’ve been told you are playing the side that is also top of the Premiership and only a few games away from winning historic back-to-back trebles.

You’re up against a collection of players you have failed to beat in eight consecutive outings, losing six and drawing two.

And you reckon this is a reason for celebrating? This Cup draw has just brought you unconfined joy? Really? Goodness only knows what they’re putting in the water supply down Govan way.

When the opposition manager makes this revelation, it is a slap in the face. They are yelling in ecstasy because they are up against you. They’ve escaped Motherwell, Kilmarnock or Aberdeen in the last-four ballot.

They’ve drawn you and that is good as a passport to the Cup Final? Celtic will sort that out next month, you can be sure of that.

For now, though, the focus is Ibrox on Sunday. Celtic have the ideal opportunity to cut short the euphoria that appears to have sprung up around Ibrox.

I’m sure Brendan and the boys will roll up their sleeves, get out there, do the business and silence a few voices of some folk who are getting just a wee bit too carried away.

It’s time to put a sock in it and shut up the Glee Club.

OUTNUMBERED…Yogi Bear among the Teddy Bears!  I’m doing a good job of disguising my delight as I come off the Hampden pitch following my two goals in the 1965 League Cup Final victory.

TOMORROW: I’ll name the team I believe will get the job done at Ibrox – another exclusive only on CQN.

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