CELTIC great John ‘Yogi’ Hughes has said thank you to Ange Postecoglou for the perfect birthday gift a fortnight ago.
The Hoops hero, the club’s seventh-highest scorer in history with 189 goals, celebrated turning 79 by settling down to watch his old club’s Premiership encounter against Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s outfit at Ibrox.
In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, Hughes, who was known to terrorise Rangers defences in his hey day at Parkhead, revealed all to his friend Alex Gordon, co-author of the icon’s autobiography, ‘Yogi Bare: The Life and Times of a Celtic Legend‘, about the “perfect present”.
YOGI ON THE RAMPAGE…John Hughes takes on the Rangers defence at Parkhead in the sixties.
The former juggernaut frontman said: “Obviously, I wasn’t going to get to the game, so the next best thing was to put my feet up at home and watch it on the TV.
“As usual, I read the newspapers in the morning to get the up-to-date news. It was interesting to note that a few of the so-called experts were writing off Celtic.
“Yes, I know I will be perceived as being a tad biased, but I hadn’t a clue on what they were basing their judgement. Maybe they had forgotten the 3-0 win for my old team in February. Celtic’s form going into the game looked pretty good to me.
“They won 3-0 against Dundee United in the Scottish Cup at Tannadice and that can be a difficult venue to play. Ange’s men were never in any trouble and did a completely professional job.
MAN AT WORK…Giorgos Giakoumakis had struck five goals in two games leading up to Ibrox.
“And it was an identical story when they beat Ross County 4-0 in Glasgow the week before the derby. Again, there was never any doubt who was going to win that encounter, especially with my old club 3-0 ahead at the interval.
“Giorgos Giakoumakis scored five goals over the two games and, as any forward will tell you, that will work wonders for your confidence. You can play and contribute in other ways, but, for any genuine striker, it’s all about how many times you stick the ball in the net.
“So, I wasn’t one bit worried that Kyogo Furuhashi wouldn’t be playing that day. There were rumblings that the little Japanese – a player I love watching – might come back, but that hardly seemed likely when you consider he hadn’t kicked a ball in 2022.
“Ibrox is not the type of place to throw in a player who had been sidelined for the previous 16 matches.
GOVAN GLEE…Ange Postecoglou reigns in the rain at the end of the Ibrox victory.
“Celtic went there in the knowledge that a win would put them six points ahead while their opponents knew they could win, but Ange’s boys would still be top on goal difference.
“But with Ange around you just knew he would set up his team to go for the jugular. Playing in a defensive set-up would be foreign to this Celtic side.
“They are at their best when they are on the front foot and so it proved at Ibrox.
“There was a lapse at the Rangers goal in the third minute when Josip Juranovic allowed Ryan Kent to race in behind him onto a pass, but I believe the Croatian right-back must have been thinking a team-mate would have been coming out to meet the winger.
“That didn’t happen and Kent had time to pick out Aaron Ramsey who gave Joe Hart no chance. Did I believe we were going to lose at that point? No chance.
THE EQUALISER…Tom Rogic prepares to pounce as Allan McGregor can only push away a shot from Reo Hatate.
THE WINNER…Cameron Carter-Vickers is ready to drive home his low left-foot drive.
“I am not saying that safe in the knowledge I know the final score. My reckoning is that if you lose an early goal you have more time to pull it back.
“You only have to look at Lisbon in 1967. Inter Milan scored with their penalty-kick in the seventh minute and that gave Celtic 83 minutes to fight back. As I recall, we put those minutes to a good use!
“I was confident my birthday was not about to be spoiled and I was not one bit surprised to see Tom Rogic claim a quickfire leveller or Cameron Carter-Vickers hit what proved to be the winner before the turnaround.
“Celtic were clever in the second period and let their opponents do all the leg work. In fact, the best chance after the interval fell to Liel Abada late in the game and he blazed over from smack in front of goal. That finish was most unlike the little Israeli who is normally so composed in the box.
CHEERS…John Hughes and author Alex Gordon celebrate a launch of the Celtic icon’s autobiography, ‘Yogi Bare: The Life and Times of a Celtic Legend’.
“The only time Joe Hart was required to make a save with their rivals chasing the game came from a Fashion Sakala low shot he dealt with comfortably at his left-hand post.
“There was every possibility, even at the age of 79, I could have got to that. I might have needed a hand up, though!
“So, the 2-1 win put us six points ahead with six games to play – and we have since beaten St Johnstone 7-0 before the split – and that was a perfect birthday gift from Big Ange and his players.
“Would it be greedy to ask for another victory today to put us into the Scottish Cup Final against Hearts on May 21?
“I believe this Old Bhoy will be smiling again at the end of play this afternoon!”
* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report and best action images from Celtic v Rangers at Hampden – only in your champion CQN.