LIAM SCALES is looking forward to a return to his finest hour and a half as a Celtic player when the champions perform at Ibrox tomorrow.

The Republic of Ireland international was pitched in at Govan in early September as Brendan Rodgers had put his first-team jigsaw together after being hit by a freak series of injuries to his central defence.

Cameron Carter-Vickers, the team’s back-four rock, new £4.3million recruit Maik Nawrocki and stand-by Stephen Welsh were all ruled out of the first derby encounter of the season.

The Hoops boss, preparing for his return to this fixture after an absence of over four and a half years, was left with little choice but to opt for Scales, who had looked to be on his way to Aberdeen in a second successive season-long loan, and Gustaf Lagerbielke, signed in the summer at £3million from Elfsborg.

FLYING THE FLAG…Liam Scales is looking forward to Ibrox tomorrow.

The Dubliner and the Swede proved to be a winning combination in a backs-to-the-wall performance that was settled with a flash of genius by Kyogo Furuhashi with a breathtaking volley just before the interval that struck the audience at Ibrox dumb with one swoosh of his deadly right foot.

Scales goes into his third back-to-back all-Glasgow confrontation at noon tomorrow and the versatile operator knows what to expect this time around.

The 25-year-old defender, who was signed as a left-back from Shamrock Rovers in a £500,000 deal in August 2021, said: “You need to be in control of your emotions.

“But there is a level of excitement and nerves. It’s brilliant. That’s why you play the game.”

Reflecting on his introduction to the white-hot atmosphere of a unique football duel, Scales said: “That game played a big part in how my season has gone. It was a big challenge early on for me.

“As far as playing centre-half for Celtic was concerned, I think it was only my second time after St Johnstone the previous week. It was massive for me to kick on. I have good memories of it.

ON THE BALL…Liam Scales in control at the back.

“When you go out there and the game starts, it’s mental – the intensity of it. So, to get through all of that with a clean sheet and a win was a big achievement and it felt brilliant.

“I think at the time I was going with the mindset that I didn’t have much to lose. An opportunity was in front of me that I didn’t think I would have.

“I was like: ‘Right, I have this now. Just go and do my thing and take the opportunity.’

“That’s what happened.”

It was far from being the ideal preparation and Scales, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “We were conscious a little bit of the outside noise because it is everywhere in the week leading up to the game.

“It didn’t really affect us in the sense that we still had belief that we could go and perform well, keep a clean sheet and beat them there.

“I think the main difference this time is that I’ve experienced it now. I’m not going in there unaware of what it’s like. I know what’s coming.
“But my approach to the game hasn’t changed at all since then. That will remain the same.”

THAT’S MY BHOY…Brendan Rodgers congratulates Liam Scales on another job well done.

Scales, who will partner Carter-Vickers on this occasion, added: “Before the game, the atmosphere is loud and intimidating. You just have to accept it and get on with it.

“Before the game, it’s harder to block it out, but when you are playing all of that goes out of the window. All you are focused on is what’s going on on the pitch.

“Before the game is a good time just take it in to prepare for what’s coming. But once the first whistle goes, that naturally all goes out of the window.

“It’s difficult to hear things from the side when you are so focused 0n what’s going on on the pitch. The adrenaline is pumping, but there’s a sense of calm as well that we have going into every game because you can’t go out there out of control.

“We know whoever plays is well capable of doing well and doing a job for us. I think all in all, though, we are in a good place, we’ve had a good week’s work and we’re looking forward to it.”

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