CELTIC play Livingston in West Lothian on Sunday in the first of their eight-game obstacle course as they bid to win their twelfth title in 13 years.

If Brendan Rodgers seeks any advice on how to plan ahead for the ultimate silverware success, he could ask club ambassador Davie Hay.

The Parkhead legend knows exactly what it takes to win the flag after successfully manoeuvring his way through soccer’s minefield to the finishing line. The former player and manager achieved the feat after a breathtaking finale to season 1985/86.

In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, the Hoops great, speaking to his long-time friend and author Alex Gordon, who co-wrote the icon’s best-selling autobiography, ‘The Quiet Assassin ‘, details the extraordinary run-in to a tumultuous, topsy turvy campaign.

Hay, 76, told all in his life story which was published in 2009. Here is the fifth instalment of his recollections from his best-selling book.

The Celtic icon remembered: “A nation waited with bated breath at the grand finale to an enthralling season, but Celtic went a long way to clinching that title on the FIRST day of the campaign.

“It’s funny how people can so often overlook the obvious.

“We were losing 1-0 to Hearts at Tynecastle on day one after my former player John Colquhoun had put the hosts ahead. Obviously, we couldn’t have even guessed at how important events would eventually unfold if we didn’t get something from this match.

OLD PAL’S AXE…former Celtic winger John Colquhoun blasts Hearts into the lead in the opening day of the remarkable 1985/86  league season. Murdo MacLeod and Tom McAdam can only look on while Sandy Clark prepares to celebrate. 

“We pulverised their defence as we searched for the equaliser. It didn’t look as though it was going to be our day, though. The referee was glancing at his watch when a ball was squared from the right and Paul McStay, racing towards the penalty box, struck his shot with devastating power and wonderful accuracy.

“Goalkeeper Henry Smith had been a giant in goal for the Edinburgh men that August day and I realised it was going to take something extra special to beat him.

“Paul came up with that required ingredient with only seconds to go and we got our leveller in a 1-1 draw.

“We were to discover just how absolutely vital that gem from our gifted midfielder was when we lined up in Paisley thirty-five games and nine months later.

“There are defining moments in football and in life when you realise the gods are smiling on you. One such occasion arrived on the afternoon of May 3 1986 in the city of my birth.

CELTIC SAVIOUR…Paul McStay lashes a low drive past Hearts keeper Henry Smith for the last-gasp equaliser at Tynecastle. It proved to be a pivotal strike for the Hoops.

“I had watched a sports programme the night before and I was left with the impression that the trophy was as good as already in the Tynecastle trophy cabinet. It appeared we were wasting our time even turning up for our final game, the championship was a foregone conclusion.

“Oh, really? I relish a challenge and I was well up for this one. I told my players before the match against St Mirren: ‘It can be done. We can win this title.’

“As rallying speeches go, it wasn’t quite Churchillian, but it got the message through to my guys. They nodded and, once again, I detected a ruthless determination in my players.

“There wasn’t a quitter in sight.”

* TOMORROW: Don’t miss the sixth dramatic instalment in the epic 1985/86 title battle. 

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