BRENDAN RODGERS and his Celtic players are preparing for the crucial eight-game countdown to the Premiership conclusion.

The champions, bidding for their twelfth title in 13 years, continue the quest against Livingston in West Lothian a week on Sunday. After that encounter, they travel to Ibrox for the third derby of the campaign.

The Hoops, a point ahead of their nearest challengers who have a game in hand, are gearing up for an almighty effort as they aim to hold onto their crown.

Club legend Davie Hay knows exactly what it takes to win the flag with eight daunting hurdles to be overcome before getting safely – and successfully – over the finishing line.

In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, the former player and manager, 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 the 1985/86 campaign.

Hay prepared for the eight matches after a rollicking, rousing Old Firm confrontation in Govan on March 22.

The 76-year-old club ambassador told all in his life story which was published in 2009.

Hay said: “The derby duel was a jewel of a game – a truly remarkable 4-4 draw at Ibrox.

“The previous seven encounters had brought in 14 goals at an average of two per game. And here we were watching an eight-goal spectacle.

“We had Willie McStay sent off in the first-half after a challenge on their awkward left-winger Ted McMinn. Actually, Willie might even admit this today, but he was getting a fairly tough time of it from McMinn and I had it in my mind to take him off at the interval.

“I didn’t get the opportunity – the ref did my job for me!

NET GAINS…Mo Johnston celebrates after scoring in Celtic’s amazing 4-4 stalemate at Ibrox. 

“Brian McClair, Mo Johnston and Tommy Burns scored for us during a tumultuous tussle, but, with the game coming to a close, we were trailing 4-3 as they had scored through Cammy Fraser (2), Ally McCoist and Robert Fleck.

“It was inconceivable we could lose after leading twice in the game. Again, the ground conditions were very heavy and I’ll never know where Murdo MacLeod summoned up the raw power to hammer in an unstoppable equaliser from about 30 yards past their keeper, Nicky Walker.

“It was a goal as soon as it left his boot and it fairly hurtled towards its destination. It was a memorable and fitting conclusion to a game that transfixed everyone who witnessed it.

“I don’t know about my players, but I was exhausted just watching from the touchline.

THE EQUALISER…Murdo MacLeod thunders in a mighty right-foot shot to give Celtic a point.

“It had been a thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes’ worth of entertainment and my opposite number Jock Wallace and I agreed on that at the end.

“It was to be my old Rangers rival’s last game in charge of the team in an Old Firm fixture. What a way to bow out.

“People had been writing us off in the race for the title and Hearts seemed to be on course for success. But I knew I had a good dressing room; a determined one, as well.

“No-one at Celtic had given up the chase with an eight-game programme still to face. I knew my players were up for the challenge.”

* TOMORROW: Don’t miss the second dramatic instalment of the epic season 1985/86 title battle.

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