CELTIC legend Davie Hay has pinpointed Cameron Carter-Vickers as the player who will have a massive say in the countdown to a rollercoaster of a season.

The USA World Cup centre-back has been beset with injuries since the second game of the campaign after being withdrawn at the interval in the 3-1 league win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie on August 13.

Carter-Vickers missed out of the Hampden celebrations on June 3 last year after the Hoops had sealed a world record eighth domestic treble with their 3-1 Scottish Cup Final triumph over Inverness Caley Thistle.

The £6million buy from Spurs in the summer of 2022 sat out the run-in to the term after undergoing surgery on a muscular problem.

However, the rock-solid defender has a major role to play this time around.

In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, Hay, speaking to his long-time friend and author Alex Gordon, who co-wrote the icon’s best-selling autobiography, ‘The Quiet Assassin ‘, paid the back-four operator the ultimate compliment.

The current club ambassador said: “Jock Stein would have given Cameron Carter-Vickers his seal of approval, he was his type of player.

“Big Jock insisted on his central defenders playing it simple without taking any risks. Billy McNeill and John Clark were the main men during the club’s glory days and they knew exactly what was expected of them every time they stepped onto the pitch.

“The instructions were clear. When they were bringing the ball forward, they had to look for Bobby Murdoch or Bertie Auld and give the ball to them.

“Bobby and Bertie were tasked with always making themselves available for a pass in these situations. Heaven help Big Billy or John if they tried any Franz Beckenbauer-type moves when they had the ball at their feet.

AIR WE GO…Cameron Carter-Vickers rises high to bullet Celtic into the lead in the 7-1 romp over Dundee.

“Rather unkindly, our legendary boss would tell them: ‘Give the ball to the players who can play’. He didn’t expect any mazy runs into enemy territory or raking passes to the likes of Jimmy Johnstone, Bobby Lennox or John Hughes in forward areas.

“When I look at Carter-Vickers I see similar traits. He doesn’t overplay the ball, doesn’t attempt to dodge past any opponents. He plays a very basic form of football and it certainly works in this Celtic line-up.

“No disrespect to Stephen Welsh, but he isn’t quite the commanding figure of his team-mate. Maybe in time he will develop that stature, but at the moment it’s all down to the ex-Spurs man.”

Former Hoops player and manager Hay, now 76, continued: “When you look back to Celtic’s all-conquering team of the 1966/67 season, it’s remarkable to note there were only two ever-presents throughout the term – John Clark and Tommy Gemmell.

“They played in all 61 games that season with Billy McNeill just one behind. That’s astonishing consistency – and it’s that stability Brendan Rodgers has not enjoyed throughout a campaign that has had its ups and downs.

“It cannot possibly help the rhythm of the team if there is no consistency of selection. The defence is the foundation of any side and just look at the amount of players who have played directly in front of Joe Hart since the start of the current crusade.

THE DEPENDABLES…John Clark and Billy McNeill celebrate another Celtic triumph in the glory days of the sixties.

“We’ve already had Carter-Vickers and Welsh, of course, while Liam Scales, Maik Nawrocki, Gustaf Lagerbielke and even Tomoki Iwata, more at home in midfield, have all been drafted in over the course of the season.

“That does nothing for a manager looking for unity and regularity and I believe all the enforced chopping and changing has been a telling factor in the erratic displays and results.”

Hay added: “Carter-Vickers brings dependability to the back line and that confidence spreads throughout the team.

“It was surely no coincidence that one of the side’s best performances in recent times was the 7-1 win over Dundee at Parkhead last month.

“Carter-Vickers returned for his first start since the 1-0 win over Ross County five games earlier.

“His influence was evident right from the kick-off and he even joined the attack to score with a header Big Billy in his prime would have been proud to call his own. And I have to tell you my old Celtic team-mate was the best I have ever seen in aerial duels in my life.

“I can’t recall anyone outjumping him from a standing start. Carter-Vickers is not a carbon copy of the man we knew as Caesar, but he has other strengths.

“I sincerely hope we are priviliged to witness them from here until the Scottish Cup Final on May 25, a very famous date in Celtic’s history.”

* TOMORROW: Don’t miss another big EXCLUSIVE from Davie Hay – only in your champion CQN.


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