CELTIC great Davie Hay has insisted throughout the season that Brendan Rodgers would lead the Hoops to the Premiership title.

The former player and manager solidly backed his old team to get back on track even in the aftermath of some fierce criticism following back-to-back defeats from Kilmarnock and Hearts in December.

There were other less-than-convincing performances that attracted condemnation from observers.

Hay believed a lot of what was said or written was over the top and he can afford to smile with the champions leading the league with a three-point advantage with only five games to play in the run-in.

READ ALL ABOUT IT…Davie Hay signs copies of Alex Gordon’s tribute book ‘Caesar and The Assassin’, dedicated to the Celtic legend and fellow-club great Billy McNeill.

In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, the club legend, speaking to author Alex Gordon, said: “I have insisted all along that it would come down to which team could handle the pressure.

“And I was positive that team would be Celtic.

“Yes, there was a lot of noise across the city when Brendan’s team wasn’t performing to their anticipated high expectations. The reaction of a section of the support to the 1-0 win over Ross County at Parkhead in January was disappointing.

“Okay, it was hardly an exhilarating display that afternoon, but no team has a God-given right to win games. Celtic have always attempted to succeed with a bit of style, but there are occasions when that won’t happen.

“There are a multitude of reasons for things not clicking into place. For a start, the opposition can set themselves up to simply wreck any pattern of play.

“They are hardly interested in the entertainment value of the match. They can set out to waste time in every possible situation and attempt to frustrate their opponents.

“I’m not talking about Ross County at the start of the year. They were there to absorb everything Celtic could throw at them and hit on the break.

FRIENDLY FOES…Brendan Rodgers and Philippe Clement embrace after the 3-3 draw at Ibrox.

“It’s not easy on the eye, but they don’t have the playing resources to go toe to toe with Celtic and I mean no disrespect to the Dingwall team when I say that.

“If the Highlanders – or any other team, for that matter – turned up at Parkhead with a gung-ho attitude they will get picked off. Simple as that.”

Hay now 76, continued: “Celtic have players who are used to playing against teams who will adopt safety-first tactics. Let’s face it, a draw against the champions is a point won and not two dropped.

“However, there will be a few recruits to Celtic who will never have encountered this problem before. Look at Yang Hyun-jun, for instance.

“I believe he was a player who exited Ange Postecoglou before the manager’s decision to move to Spurs. However, prior to that switch, I’m told he was looking forward to introducing the South Korean winger to Scottish football.

“I confess I do not know an awful lot about the calibre of the K-League, but you have to wonder if Yang had to contend with defenders double banking when he received a pass.

“You can get past one opponent, but, inevitably if the rival team are set up properly, there will be someone else filtering in to provide a second obstacle.

CRUNCH…Yang Hyun-jun is challenged by Motherwell defender Dan Casey.

“In situations like that, an incoming player from another country with an entirely different outlook will need time to get to understand what lies ahead of them.

“It may mean them modifying their styles and that takes time.

“I’m talking about Yang, but you can throw in the likes of Luis Palma, Odin Holm, Marco Tilio and anyone else who has joined the club since the summer.

“It would have been an exceptional fusion of talents if all the new Bhoys had fitted the jigsaw in the opening weeks and months of the season. That rarely – if ever – happens.”

Hay, known as ‘The Quiet Assassin’ in his playing days, added: “Remember, too, Celtic had a new manager in Brendan Rodgers who would have seen a few changes in the squad during his four and a half years away from the club.

“So, there was always going to be a hiccup during such a transitional period on and off the field. It says much for everyone at my old club that they are on the brink of a league and Cup double.

“I would never take anything for granted in this game. It wasn’t that long ago that people were tipping Rangers to beat Celtic at Ibrox and then go all the way to win the league.

“I read somewhere this morning that Rangers have ‘handled the title back to Celtic’ after their loss at Ross County on Sunday and the draw with Dundee last night.

“How could this be possible? Rangers did not have a title in their possession to hand back to Celtic.

“There is only one club in this country who could hand the title to anyone and that is Celtic. It’s been their title for the past two years – or have some people conveniently overlooked that little fact?

“And, as I have said from day one of the season, I don’t see my old club handing that championship to anyone.

“Before the curtain comes down, there may be twists or turns to come, but Celtic will NOT be knocked off course.

“I am absolutely positive the twelfth championship in 13 years is heading home to Parkhead.”

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