DAVIE HAY was almost a lone voice as he warned critics about the perils of writing off Celtic in the aftermath of the inexplicable downfall of the team in season 2020/21.

The feeble performances and the abysmal failure to seal the historic tenth successive title brought an avalanche of scathing comments.

The Hoops stumbled through a shambolic campaign in which much was promised and nothing delivered.

The side suffered their first trophyless crusade in 11 years and it was open season for some observers to put the boot in.

Parkhead legend Hay insisted in an exclusive interview – which appeared in CQN in April 2021 – that the club’s detractors could be eating their words as many of the so-called experts queued up to proclaim the team from Govan were now poised to dominate Scotland’s top flight.

Apparently, the Hoops would be cast among the also-rans, merely existing to make up the numbers.

BORN WINNER…Celtic boss Davie Hay celebrates the 1985 Scottish Cup triumph.

At the time, though, Hay was adamant the critics would be proved wrong as he said: “I am reading and hearing about the Ibrox men getting ready for a period of sustained glory.

“Yes, they have done well on the domestic front this time out as far as the Premiership is concerned and that deserves to be acknowledged.

“However, let’s remember, please, that Steven Gerrard has won only one out of the eight trophies that have been up for grabs since he took over three years ago. One trophy from eight is far removed from the achievement of a quadruple treble, twelve victories in succession over four amazing years.”

Hay, of course, was proved right. Ange Postecoglou arrived in the summer of 2021 and won the title and the Premiership crown in his debut campaign. The Greek-Australian followed up that achievement with the silverware clean sweep last time out.

Brendan Rodgers is now in the dug-out for his second stint and is preparing his players for the crucial derby at Ibrox on Sunday.

In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, club great Hay, speaking to close friend and author Alex Gordon, sets the tone for another intriguing Glasgow showdown.

The former player and manager, now 76, said: “It’s not quite an identical scenario, but I note Rangers are now being installed as favourites to win at their place at the weekend.

“If Philippe Clement’s men manage to get three important points, it won’t just be a win over the reigning champions, it will be a massive psychological boost.

ON ITS WAY…Kyogo Furuhashi prepares to unleash an unstoppable right-foot drive for Celtic’s winner at Ibrox in September.

“They would be two points ahead with a game in hand and Brendan Rodgers’ side are running out of fixtures to get back into pole position.

“That seems to be the vibe that is going around at the moment with people insisting all the pressure will be on the visitors at a packed stadium without a solitary fan to offer encouragement to Celtic.

“As I said yesterday, overcoming such challenges is what it is all about for a Celtic player.

“So, while people have their say in what this match means to the hosts, I think we should keep in mind the flip side of the coin.

“What if Celtic win? They go four points ahead with their city rivals playing their game in hand in Dundee in midweek. Anything could happen at Dens Park, especially if the Rangers heads are down.

“My old club would also have a home fixture against the Ibrox side after the split.

“The way I see it, Celtic can go for two results on Sunday – a win and a draw. A defeat is unthinkable. On the other hand, the home side know it is imperative to win.

“They must go for the three points. I don’t see them throwing caution to the wind – Philippe Clement’s teams tend to be a bit more methodical –  but the onus is on them to force the flow of the game.

WHISTLING UP A WIN…Brendan Rodgers is in tune with his Celtic players.

“That could suit Celtic. No defender in the world likes to attempt to combat an opponent with pace. It’s a quality that has even the best of the back-four operators on tenterhooks throughout a game.

“Just look at Kyogo Furuhashi’s winner at the venue in September. A headed ball forward from Matt O’Riley from a Rangers clearance suddenly split centre-backs Connor Goldson and John Souttar.

“That was all that Kyogo needed. He raced full-pelt in the vacant space, hit the ball first time and Jack Butland didn’t have an earthly as the effort whipped low into the net.

“In a flash, the encounter was decided. That was all it took. And you better believe Clement and Co will be extremely wary of what the Japanese player can do in a heartbeat if he is left unattended.

“I said my old club can go to Ibrox and get two results that would keep most people of a Celtic persuasion satisfied. It’s my belief, however, Brendan Rodgers will set out a team to win.

“That’s exactly what I would have done. Sometimes playing it safe can invite disaster. It tends to allow your opponent most of the possession and they get the opportunity to build momentum.”

Hay, now a club ambassador, continued: “Cameron Carter-Vickers is coming back at just the right time and it’s obvious he is a cornerstone of the defence. He is solid, dependable, unfussy and gets the job done.

“It’s odd, though, that the USA World Cup centre-back missed the two previous derbies this season.

OLD PALS’ ACT…Cameron Carter-Vickers shoves off former Ibrox adversary Alfredo Morelos in the 1-0 Scottish Cup semi-final victory last season.

“He was injured and in the stand for both games. Liam Scales and Gustaf Lagerbielke were the double-act in the win at the start of the term and the Republic of Ireland man teamed up with Stephen Welsh at kick-off for the second match at Parkhead in December.

“Brendan had to make a first-half switch when Welsh suffered a shoulder knock and Maik Nawrocki came on. It says a lot for the team that they coped with early upheaval and took care of business.”

Hay added: “There will be a lot of talk before the midday kick-off. Predictions will be made and I have to admit I have already raised an eyebrow or two after reading and hearing comments from folk who should know better.

“Surely by now the critics must be aware of the dangers of dismissing Celtic. It’s no fluke they have won five of the seven domestic honours up for grabs over the past two and a half years.

“They’ve got the players who have been to the frontline and returned as victors. They are ready to carry out the task again.

“If it’s a level-playing field, Brendan Rodgers and his players will show just why Celtic have won eleven of the last 12 championships.”

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