THE gauntlet has been thrown down to Celtic’s fringe players to show their qualities in the countdown to what could be a memorable treble-winning campaign.

Ange Postecoglou’s right-hand man John Kennedy has told everyone looking to play their part with the curtain due to come down with a Scottish Cup Final crescendo at Hampden a fortnight tomorrow.

The champions have three Premiership challenges to meet and overcome before they face Championship side Inverness Caley Thistle at the national stadium where they have the opportunity to claim only their eighth domestic clean sweep in the club’s history.

St Mirren provide the first hurdle at Parkhead tomorrow afternoon as the 2022/23 title winners will take a bow almost a fortnight after reclaiming the crown at Tynecastle.

ON THE BALL…John Kennedy during training at Lennoxtown.

Next up, is a trip to Easter Road to take on Hibs on Wednesday evening and then it’s a second successive Flag Day against Aberdeen in the east end of Glasgow three days later.

Reflecting on the unexpected stumble at Ibrox, assistant boss Kennedy said: “We’re disappointed with last week, but we have to look forward again and there’s always places to play for.

“There will be opportunities for guys to play and when the squad’s strong then the manager can see the guys who are waiting for that opportunity.

“He’s good at knowing when to give those guys oxygen to go and perform and, in the main, the performance levels have stayed at a very good level and not dropped.

“We’ve got a really strong group here that’s ready to play whether for 10 minutes or 90 minutes and they’ve been excellent in going out and living up to those standards.”

Kennedy, speaking to the Celtic TV, continued: “This group are young and has come in from different places and fitted in and embraced what the club is about.

“We have really high standards and the manager sets them every week, so there were certainly some things to look at come Monday morning.

“There’s still work to do. We can’t sit here and think about what’s around the corner because we still have football to play and we will never get into that mindset.

“We know we still need to work hard and training has been very intense in the last two days and that’s what carries us.

“The hungrier the group is, that brings more consistency and that consistency brings success over the course of the season. It’s not easy to win trophies year after year, it takes a lot of work from everyone.

“The manager gives them a common purpose and goal and he drills it into them every week to achieve big things.

“He doesn’t veer off track, he knows how he wants things done and that makes our job as coaches easier as we know the expectations.

“We’re in a good place, but we will take nothing for granted and we need to make sure we go and finish things off.”

The Hoops No.2 added: “It all comes from ourselves to drive the standards.

“We’re the ones who set the training up and prepare the players for all the games and the manager has very high standards in that respect.”

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