CELTIC legend Lubo Moravcik knows what it is like to be on the receiving end of ferocious criticism after an embarrassing defeat.
The midfield magician was in the Hoops team that flopped 3-1 to Inverness Caley Thistle at Parkhead in February 2000 and were humiliatingly dismissed from the Scottish Cup.
John Barnes was sacked as manager two days later, Kenny Dalglish took as interim boss to see the team through to the end of the campaign – in which they won the League Cup – and Martin O’Neill was introduced the following summer.
Moravcik and Co got pelters from the raging fans and, speaking to the Daily Record, admitted: “That was probably the toughest game of my career.
“I’d never had that kind of experience before in my life, including everything that happened after the game. But the next day, the sun came out again. In these situations you have to lift yourself.
“The Celtic fans are possibly one of the best in football.
“But they can also be among the most emotional supporters after defeats.
“I understand it all because I appreciate how proud the Celtic fans are of the team and how much they want the players to do well.
“I think the fans are happy again because Celtic have won two games.
“Their reaction before is because they’ve been unhappy with results and performances.
“Now, after the recent victories, I hope the fans can forgive and forget.”
Neil Lennon and his players copped similar flak after the dismal Betfred League Cup exit against another side from the Highlands, Ross County, last month.
But Moravcik insisted he does NOT fear for his old team-mate who had to run the gauntlet following a run of only two wins in 12 games while the defence surrended goals at an alarming rate.
However, the Irishman has steadied the ship with two victories in three days against Lille in the Europa League and Kilmarnock in the Premiership as he gears his players for Sunday’s delayed Scottish Cup Final against Hearts at Hampden where the Parkhead side can make even more history by sealing the extraordinary quadruple treble.
Moravcik said: “Lenny was a natural leader in the dressing room. Not because he was talking all the time. He wasn’t a guy to make jokes.
“It was because he was a hard-working player who never wanted to get beaten.
“I’m not scared for him because I know he has a strong character.
“Every team needs a player like Lenny because he’s got such a good mentality and a hard worker. He was really professional and a natural leader.”
Moravcik hopes his old team can build on their recent upturn in form, win the Scottish Cup against the Tynecastle outfit to seal their twelfth successive domestic honour and then win their league encounters against Ross County, Hamilton Accies and Dundee United to set them up for the trip to Ibrox on January 2.
The Slovakian said: “Last time I saw Rangers play in Europe I didn’t think they were a top team.
“Okay, they are a team in top form. They win their league games easily, they qualify for the knock-out rounds of the Europa League.
“Rangers is similar to Celtic at the moment, but they are in better form.”
Moravcik added: “If Celtic win the Scottish Cup and secure another treble it will be fantastic.
“I hope they finish the year strongly because the important game is January 2 against Rangers.
“I cross my fingers that the Final will be a success and they can go and win the next three games in the league.”