FILIPE JOTA has seen his soccer world turn upside down in the past 12 months.
Celtic’s Portuguese flyer was on loan from Benfica at struggling Spanish outfit Vallodolid last season, but could not prevent them toppling out of La Liga.
He agreed another temporary transfer from the Lisbon giants in the summer as part of Ange Postecoglou’s massive squad revamp – and has played a starring role in an extraordinary reversal of fortunes.
Jota has won a new army of fans with his flamboyant play on the flanks and his eye for a spectacular goal, but he also displayed genuine aggression when he claimed his eleventh strike of the campaign against Ross County in Dingwall at the weekend.
WAITING GAME…Filipe Jota – with Ross County’s Connor Randall in front of him – watches as Giorgos Giakoumakis’ attempt hits the face of the crossbar. The Portuguese ace reacted first to claim the killer second goal.
Only three minutes remained with the Hoops still leading from Kyogo Furuhashi’s 12th-minute header when substitute Giorgos Giakoumakis knocked an effort over the flailing arms of keeper Ross Laidlaw. The ball clattered off the crossbar and bounced into the air.
Connor Randall, the County right-back, was closer to the rebound than the Celt, but Jota was quickest to react and got in front of his opponent to force the ball in from close range.
That effort made certain Postecoglou’s side had restored their six-point lead at the top of the league and they can extend that to nine when the Hoops take on Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s visitors in the High Noon head to head at Parkhead on Sunday.
That would leave the hosts with at least a 20-goal superiority as well as the points upper hand with three games to play.
DINGWALL DELIGHT…Filipe Jota acknowledges the acclaim of the travelling support.
Jota terrorised the Ibrox rearguard in his team’s rampant 3-0 romp in early February and hopes to be given the green light to do so again at the weekend with the Hoops on the brink of a title party.
And that is all-change, too, for the 23-year-old touchline ace after Celtic’s three defeats in their first six league games of the season which was followed by dropping two more in a stalemate with Dundee United.
Back then, Jota had a snappy answer to the inquisitor who asked if he was concerned about the amount of points the team had shed.
He fired back: “Last time I checked there are no champions in September.”
The player was speaking in the aftermath of the 1-1 draw with the Tannadice outfit at Parkhead – where he had set up his team’s goal with a cross to Liel Abada – but it wasn’t enough to prevent Postecoglou’s men from carelessly throwing away their eleventh point following successive losses at Tynecastle, Ibrox and Livingston.
BALL BHOY…Filipe Jota prepares for a throw-in.
Asked if he was perturbed about the team being six points off the pace, Jota, as reported in CQN, replied: “We don’t think like that. We are still only in September.
“Last time I checked there are no champions in September.
‘So, I think we just have to play game by game. I think we have to learn from the things we do wrong, develop and just be a better team.
“So the championship will end in May, I think, and then we can speak about that.
“For now I think there is plenty of the championship to play.
“I’m 100 per cent confident in the players we have got because I think we have a quality group.”
And here we are today, friends, on the brink of the club’s tenth crown in 11 years.
The rewards of positive thought – and a manager and a set of players with a determined will to win.