BRENDAN RODGERS clearly has no fears of a visit to Ibrox.

And Celtic legend Davie Hay is hoping that situation isn’t altered after the champions have locked horns with Philippe Clement’s side at the venue on Sunday April 7.

The club’s former player and manager reckons the crunch occasion could prove to be the turning point in this season’s tussle for the title.

The Hoops have the opportunity to go back to the pinnacle with a win over St Johnstone at Parkhead this afternoon while the Govan club travel to take on Dundee at Dens Park at noon tomorrow.

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‘, analyses the intriguing countdown to the league campaign.

The club great said: “Brendan’s record against Rangers is simply phenomenal. Twelve wins, two draws and one defeat in 15 Glasgow derbies is excellent by anyone’s standards.

“This will be his seventh match at Ibrox and he’s had six successes in that sequence. His solitary loss came in Govan in December 2018 shortly before his move to Leicester City two months later.

“You could say there are no Ibrox fears for ‘bogey man’ Brendan.

“I was with the official Celtic party back at Ibrox in September when a fabulous goal from Kyogo Furuhashi settled the outcome. The place was bouncing and there were the usual tribal songs leading up to kick-off.

“I took my seat and glanced at the Celtic manager standing outside the dug-out on the trackside. If there were any traces of nerves, I missed them.

“Brendan looked like a guy who was born for such a fixture. That takes a fair bit of backbone, believe me.”

NO FEARS…Brendan Rodgers stands on the Ibrox trackside before Celtic’s 1-0 win in September.

Hay continued: “Big Jock Stein thrived on these fixtures and drummed into his players not to even contemplate being intimidated by the atmosphere.

“One of my early games for Celtic was at that venue in September 1969. I remember it well. John Greig was the Rangers captain at the time and he was a real warrior for the club. He was straight from the no-prisoners-taken school as he clattered opponents.

“There is little doubt Greigy softened up opponents although I hasten to add my old adversary was not a dirty player. When he hit you he rattled your bones – even your filings were shaken loose – and Big Jock had clearly had enough of the Rangers captain controlling the middle of the park in Old Firm encounters.

“The manager took me aside, had a word about my role in midfield that day and, basically, told me to let Greigy know I was on the field.

“I was only 21 at the time, but I got the drift. The first chance I got, I went in hard, won the ball and, if I recall properly, played it it to Wee Jinky.

“A couple of minutes later, there was another 50-50 and I dug in to gain possession. Greigy landed on his backside and I could see him looking at this young upstart and wondering who the hell I was.

WELCOME TO THE DERBY…referee Tiny Wharton wants a word with Davie Hay (No.10) as Rangers’ Willie Johnston is floored. Jim Brogan and Billy McNeill look on during the Hoops’ 1-0 win in September 1969.

“We won 1-0 with a superb goal from Harry Hood and it wasn’t a bad start to the unique atmosphere in this world-famous fixture.

“It was a fair achievement, especially as we had to play the remaining 20-odd minutes with 10 men after Jim Craig had been sent off after a clash with Willie Johnston.

“By the way, I am delighted to inform you I never lost a game as a player or a manager to Rangers at Celtic Park. From day one, I knew the importance of these fixtures.”

Hay, now 76 and a Celtic club ambassador, added: “It’s different these days, of course, with away fans banned, so that ramps up the pressure on the players from the visiting team.

“I look at my days and think of team-mates such as Tommy Gemmell, Billy McNeill, Bobby Murdoch, Bertie Auld and Wee Jimmy Johnstone who would have relished playing in such a toxic atmosphere. Me, too, for that matter.

“What an opportunity to silence your opponents’ fans. And Brendan’s lads get the chance to do that in three weeks’ time.

“With no disrespect to either St Johnstone or Livingston, but if Celtic win those games and Philippe Clement’s side do likewise against Dundee and Hibs, it will be perfectly set up for my old club in Govan.

GOVAN GLEE…Kyogo Furuhashi thunders in the winner with John Souttar and Connor Goldson getting a good view at Ibrox in September.

“Brendan and his men would go into the encounter trailing by two points in the certain knowledge they can leave the stadium as Premiership leaders if they get the job done.

“I am not saying the title would cetainly be going back home with six games still to play, but it would be one helluva psychological boost for the victors.

“Plus one of those six matches would be a home fixture for Celtic against Rangers. Somehow I just could not see them losing that one if they take three – or even one – from Govan next month.

“One thing is certain – Brendan won’t be shaking in his boots at Ibrox. It could well be the case that nervous tension may be evident elsewhere on and off the pitch that day.”

* TOMORROW: Don’t miss another great EXCLUSIVE from club legend Davie Hay as he continues to deliver his forthright views on Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic – only in your champion CQN.


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