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EXCLUSIVE! ‘MY BIG REGRET,’ CELTIC LEGEND BERTIE AULD AT 80

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CHEERS, folks! It’s my EIGHTIETH birthday today and I have to confess I’m celebrating it with a small regret – I’m a bit too old to get the boots on and play in Brendan Rodgers’ team.

I would love to perform in this side. The Celtic manager has assembled a line-up that is well worth applauding, a side that does those green-and-white hoops proud.

I’ve been fortunate enough to play in Jock Stein’s all-conquering European Cup-winning team – winning 13 medals in my career – and I was also coached by Eddie Turnbull – known to everyone as Ned – at Hibs.

Naturally, both had massive influences on me, both were ground-breaking managers in their own right. I look at Brendan Rodgers and I can see some of Big Jock and Ned in the way he sets out his teams.

When I was a player, it was installed in me the importance of not only winning, but winning while entertaining.

That was the mantra and both Parkhead and Easter Road and you can see that in today’s Celtic line-up.

“SMILES BETTER…Brendan Rodgers deserves more praise.”

I thought it was a stroke of genius from Brendan to put on an attacker when the team were down to 10 men against Rangers at Ibrox.

That was brave. He could quite easily have gone for a defender to protect his goalkeeper, Scott Bain, who, remember, was making his debut.

Instead, though, he sent on Odsonne Edouard and he got his reward when the young Frenchman got the winner.

I can’t think of too many other managers who would have taken that risk. Big Jock and Ned would have been courageous enough to make that substitution, but others would have played the safety card.

Listen, I read and hear little snippets about people taking a sly swipe at the Celtic manager.

How can you criticise someone who has come into Scottish football and won everything in his first season without a single domestic defeat?

Maybe the team hasn’t been quite so slick this time around – and the players are bound to be tired after almost two hard years without a proper break – but they have still won the only trophy that has been up for grabs, the League Cup.

They are sitting 10 points clear at the top of the Premiership with a game in hand and are on their way to completing seven in a row.

And they are possibly only three hours away from retaining the Scottish Cup.

Brendan is on the brink of something even Big Jock couldn’t achieve by winning back-to-back trebles.

We did the domestic clean sweep twice in the Stein era, but, unfortunately, they weren’t in successive seasons.

Celtic won it first in the unforgettable 1966/67 campaign and then there was a hiccup before we did it again in 1968/69.

” A COUPLE OF WINNERS…Big Jock and me.”

If Brendan manages that feat, no-one will be able to take that away from him.

I think some people attempt to unsettle the Celtic boss. We keep hearing such-and-such a club want him as their new gaffer, but he has ignored all that speculation to concentrate on matters at hand.

He’s a bright guy, no doubt about it. Getting back to the Ibrox game, he knew what he was doing.

One of his strengths, like those of Stein and Turnbull, is to read a game and see how it is unfolding.

He could see Celtic, even with 10 men, had an opportunity of winning that match. Remember, too, Rangers had a chance of cutting my old team’s advantage at the top of the table to three points that afternoon.

They had been making all sorts of noises before the encounter about what they were going to do to the champions.

Even Graeme Souness was rolled out to say a win for Rangers would be good for Scottish football.

So, Brendan had to be fairly confident in what he was doing when he committed another attacking player with a fair chunk of the game still to go.

I have to say I am enjoying watching Celtic these days. I am not going to criticise Ronny Deila, who did win two championships, after all.

“MY LAST HURRAH…I’m held shoulder-high by Big Tommy Gemmell and Billy McNeill after my final game for Celtic – a 6-1 win over Clyde in Paradise in May 1971.”

However, there were occasions when the team didn’t quite look right, they weren’t performing in the manner expected of them.

Stuart Armstrong, for instance, was stuck out on the left wing in some games. Whatever Armstrong is, he is not a winger.

Brendan took one look at the boy and moved him into midfield where his overall strength, shrewd passing, explosive shooting and running power are appreciated and a lot more beneficial to the team.

I just wish I could get the boots looked out and get a game for this team.

I’ll just have to make do with watching from the stand. And I like what I am witnessing.

Make mine a double treble, Brendan!

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