CHRIS SUTTON insists it is time for Celtic’s fringe players to step up and be counted.

The former Hoops goal hero acknowledges the great work done by Ange Postecoglou in the transfer market and believes the January Sales will be absolutely crucial to his old side to further strengthen his squad following the summer revamp.

The next four weeks will be vitally important for the manager and the Parkhead club with a hectic nine-game period which kicks off against Dundee United at Tannadice with a midday start tomorrow and culminates in the January 2 meeting with Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s Ibrox side at Parkhead.

SALES TALK…Ange Postecoglou is poised for a busy January transfer window. 

The three-week winter break will give everyone a breather although it is certain Postecoglou will still be working overtime on his squad overhaul.

Anthony Ralston, Filipe Jota and Stephen Welsh limped off on Thursday night and that is a matter of concern for the Greek-Australian gaffer.

Sutton reckons there will be openings for other players to come in and make an impact over the crucial period which includes a Premier Sports League Cup Final against Hibs at Hampden a fortnight tomorrow.

The one-time England international striker said: “The call for much-needed reinforcements is screaming loud.

“One look at the subs bench during their 1-0 win over Hearts tells its own story and that transfer window can’t come soon enough.

HOLD ON…Mikey Johnston’s progress is halted in an unsual manner by Hibs defender Ryan Porteous.

“December will be about hanging in there. maintaining what they’re doing and pushing for their title. They’ve got to find a way of getting through to January and staying in touch.

“A four-point deficit is nothing at this stage, but a bigger gap can’t be allowed to develop.

“This is a squad which is creaking at the seams. But you have to take it all back to the summer and take a look at what Postecoglou inherited to where they are now.

“Over the whole piece and for what he’s had to put up with, it was a complete mess.

“Twelve players had to be brought in, can you imagine if Ange’s eye had not been so good with regard to transfers?

“What scenario would be playing out had the likes of Kyogo and Jota not arrived? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

“Those two, in particular, have been absolutely sensational.

IN WITH A SHOUT…James McCarthy will get the opportunity to answer some questions.

“In the main, I’ve been impressed by Postecoglou’s signings. Let’s be honest, it was one hell of an overhaul in the summer and you have to say he’s delivered the goods. He needs to go again.

“Celtic are now a side showing good traits in terms of what’s required to get over the line, but they are so heavily stretched and it’s going to get worse.

“The sight of Jota pulling up against Hearts with what appeared to be a hamstring injury is a major worry.

“Anthony Ralston hobbled off as did Stephen Welsh, these issues could prove significant.

“Jota’s going to be a huge loss, hopefully he’s not out for long as he’s been superb in the last few months and is a key attacking weapon.”

Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “It’s time for other players, those boys who are on the fringe need to come to the fore.

“Mikey Johnston, Liel Abada and James McCarthy, it’s time for all of them to step up.

THREE AMIGOS…Kyogo Furuhashi and Liel Abada celebrate a goal in the 3-2 win over Ferencvaros in Budapest last month.

“I had to check Johnston’s age and it’s hard to believe he’s still only 22. I can remember him playing a Champions League qualifier in Sarajevo a few years ago, he was excellent that night and scored. That was the start of a really good campaign for him and then he dropped out of things.

“He’s someone who needs to show more, for years now he’s been in and around the first team, but hasn’t managed to get a decent run in the side. Injuries haven’t helped his cause, but his time is now and he needs to show Postecoglou what he can do and on a consistent basis.

“It looks as though he’ll get his opportunity now as a straight replacement for Jota and he’s got to grab it.

“McCarthy’s an interesting one, he’s arrived on a four-year contract and has a pedigree and was a high profile signing, but again he was on the bench against Hearts, after starting against Aberdeen on Saturday he should be making himself a permanent fixture.

“He’s another who’s had injury and illness issues, but he really hasn’t performed, there needs to be much more from him.”

Sutton added: “There are good signs, take the Bayer Leverkusen result at the end of September out of the equation and Celtic’s run over recent months has been superb.

“They are finding a way to win and the consistency has been good.

“They need to keep it up, games are coming thick and fast and next week’s match against Real Betis is an opportunity to give fringe players a run out and not risk the big guns.

“They need to take the opportunity.”

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