LEGEND John ‘Yogi’ Hughes predicts Celtic WILL enjoy a memorable season – if they cut out the ‘free gift scheme’.
The Hoops great, the seventh-highest goalscorer in the Parkhead club’s history with 189 strikes, has watched his old side fail to win in four consecutive games while shipping 10 goals in the process.
But Big Yogi, speaking to Celtic book author Alex Gordon for another CQN EXCLUSIVE, is convinced manager Neil Lennon and his players are about to turn a massive corner in a monumental campaign.
He insisted: “Last week I urged in CQN for the Celtic players to show some of the courage and fortitude that is associated with the club.
“I saw that against Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Sunday and against Lille in France last night. Okay, both games ended in draws, but I believe Lenny now has a platform from which to launch a successful season.
“In both games, there was a bit of true grit about the performers. A willingness to get in there and give it their all. That had been sadly lacking in the dire display against the Ibrox side.
“That was a tame, lame performance that is basically unacceptable. The critics had a field day with their observations and, naturally, social media went into overdrive with a loan of old baloney and claptrap.
“The team from two weeks ago and the one last night was a different beast altogether. There was a fire and fervour about their play that wasn’t evident in the derby. Possibly, the manager told his players to have a good look at themselves after that pathetic showing.
“There were no excuses. No-one got passmarks in that game. So, it was interesting to note that so many people “in the know” were quick to write off Celtic.
“After 11 league games? We’re talking about a team that has won the league on nine successive years and annexed every piece of domestic silverware up for grabs over the past four terms.
“They have lifted ELEVEN consecutive honours and they have the opportunity to make that twelve if they beat Aberdeen in the delayed Scottish Cup semi-final on Sunday and take care of either Hibs or Hearts in the Final at Hampden on December 20.
“And, yet, folks are dismissing their worth because of a few performances that have not been up to scratch. Football never ceases to amaze me.
“Good players do not become duds over the period of a few months. Surely, that is obvious.
“I was impressed by so many of Celtic’s play against a very good Lille team last night. Remember, this is a side in a highly-competitive division that have not lost at home since February.
“Lenny’s players’ attitudes were first-class right from the off. They knew they had to face and overcome a challenge and they looked up for it.
“Mohamed Elyounoussi scored two superb goals and should have had at least one in the second-half. He wasn’t selfish enough at one stage when he broke through and try to feed in Albian Ajeti. He should have taken it on himself and, like the good player he is, he will know that himself.
“Celtic got great service from Jeremie Frimpong and Diego Laxalt on the flanks and Callum McGregor didn’t stop running from first to last. Ryan Christie may have been culpable when he didn’t pick up Zeki Celik at their first goal from a badly-defended left-wing corner-kick, but, otherwise, he was non-stop until he ran out of puff and was taken off eight minutes from the end when it looked as though there was nothing left in the tank.
“Scott Bain made a couple of good saves – including one from a penalty-kick – and I think his distribution is cleaner and crisper than that of Vasilis Barkas who has yet to prove himself as a £4.5million goalkeeper.
“Would anyone be surprised to see Bain in goal against the Dons on Sunday? I wouldn’t. He did have a moment of lapsed concentration just before half-time when he fumbled a high ball that he should have taken in his sleep, but a run of competitive games will go along way to ironing out that flaw.
“Olivier Ntcham started brightly against his French compatriots, but he tired, too, in the second period when the Hoops were up against it.
“There were a few tired legs among the home ranks and Celtic players were bright enough to see they had an opportunity to possibly get back in front.
“They broke well, but didn’t get the rewards. So, we had to accept a draw and our first point in the group. We’ll take it. Next up, we have two back-to-back games against Sparta Prague and, with the correct attitude, they have a good chance to get the required amount of points to advance through the section. However, we have to shut the back door and get out of the irritating habit of the free-gift sceme that is allowing teams to get cheap goals against us.
“Everything was bleak and black a fortnight ago. Thankfully, a splash of colour has been added.
“Celtic are beginning to look like Celtic again.”
TOMORROW: Don’t miss another insightful EXCLUSIVE from Big Yogi – only in your champion CQN.