FORMER goal hero John Hartson has told Celtic they need to lock the back door if they are to win a historic tenth successive title.
The Welsh international legend reckons his old team-mate Neil Lennon’s side may require “a small miracle” to achieve their 52nd championship since they achieved their first in 1893.
The Hoops, of course, are already in world football’s Hall of Fame after their Scottish Cup triumph at the weekend when they picked up their TWELFTH consecutive trophy to seal an unprecedented quadruple treble, a feat that is unlikely ever to be equalled never mind eclipsed.
Lennon and his troops are now free to concentrate on retaining the Premiership crown and are gearing up to pile up the points to eat away at the advantage Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox outfit have racked up in the absence of the Parkhead men’s participation on league business.
Scotland’s title kings are 16 points adrift, but have a crucial three-game backlog to work their way through, starting tomorrow night with the visit of Betfred League Cup conquerors Ross County who dismissed their boss Stuart Kettlewell at the weekend and brought in ex-Celt John Hughes, who has managed Inverness Caley Thistle, Hibs and Falkirk in the past.
Looking at the Premiership challenge that faces the champions, Hartson, speaking to the BBC’s The Nine show, said: “They’ve got to pick their form up.
“It’s a huge couple of months now for Neil Lennon as Celtic try to claw back the huge deficit on Rangers. That now is the challenge.
“It might amaze a lot of people that Neil has been getting so much flak. One of the reasons the supporters are so aggrieved and want to protest the way they have, is because this 10-in-a-row bid, they feel they’re not even putting up a challenge against Rangers.
“Celtic will have to go on a remarkable run now and that might include winning at Ibrox on January 2. Celtic probably need a small miracle now.”
Lennon brought in rookie keeper Conor Hazard, who emerged as the unlikely Hampden hero with two penalty saves in the 4-3 shoot-out success after a 3-3 extra-time stalemate, while £4.5million Vasilis Barkas and Scott Bain were overlooked.
The 22-year-old Northern Ireland international kept one of only two clean sheets in a 15-game sequence when he shut out Kilmarnock in a 2-0 victory at Parkhead the previous week.
Hartson added: “I’m not sure I fancy them [for the title]because of the way they defend, The defence needs work.
“If Celtic win their three games in hand, the gap becomes seven points. Win at Ibrox, it becomes four and they still have to play Rangers twice.
“So, it’s not beyond Celtic, but I just don’t see them keeping clean sheets.”