JONNY HAYES won the Man-of-the-Match accolade following his marauding display in the 2-0 Premiership win over Motherwell at Parkhead yesterday.
And then the 32-year-old versatile Celt paid a handsome tribute to skipper Scott Brown, two years his senior.
The champions were showing signs of slight fatigue against a battling Fir Park side after their historic exertions in Rome three days earlier when they overcame Serie A aces Lazio 2-1 for their first victory on Italian soil while guaranteeing a place in the Europa League knock-out stages next year.
Neil Lennon had to pick up his players to go again to make certain they didn’t lose ground at the top of the table and they responded with a solid triumph with a first-half strike from Odsonne Edouard and an own goal from Richard Tait after the turnaround.
The unfortunate defender put the ball into his own net as he attempted to cut out a sweeping low cross from Hayes that was destined for either Olivier Ntcham or Jeremie Frimpong who were lurking at the back post.
Skipper Brown put in his usual relentless shift and Hayes, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “The captain leads by example. But the work-rate week in, week out of the likes of Browny, Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie, it’s second nature at this stage.
“Especially as some of the players have been playing 60 games a season for the last three or four years.
“The captain has got a bit of Benjamin Button about him!
“He has proved people wrong with how fit he is. His determination in games is incredible. We look up to him.
“The squad is fit and strong. We have no qualms about playing two or three games a week.
“It was good to have a home game – with all the supporters there in a packed stadium and with a good football pitch you don’t need any extra incentive to go and perform on the back of Thursday night.
“Obviously, gaining three points was the most important thing. But it was important we put on a decent display, as well.
“The manager made sure that we didn’t dwell on that.”
Hayes also revealed he has an extra motivational factor. He added: “My son at home is my biggest critic.
“I got back in from Rome at 5am and he woke me up at 8am to tell me I was at fault for a couple of free-kicks! When you get that at home everything else pales into insignificance.
“I’ve got two young kids to provide for and that’s my motivation, whether it’s here, there or anywhere.
“I take my football day by day, I don’t think about the future. What will be will be.
“To be honest, I was just happy to be out there playing football, as long as we won.
“We finished the last run of games on a defeat and we wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again.
“I thought we played well right from the first whistle. It was thoroughly deserved. I knew when I signed here I was going to be in and out sometimes.
“I know how the squad works here, but I won’t complain. I’ve cherished every minute I’ve had on the pitch since I got the injury.
“I’m always there when the manager calls.”