THE fear factor among the Celtic players could drive the team to a memorable domestic treble.

Ange Postecoglou has attempted to make sure individuals are getting vital game time as the silverware showdowns approach before the curtain falls on his second season in charge on June 3 when the Scottish Cup Final is due at Hampden.

Between then and now, the champions have 13 Premiership games to address, the countdown continuing tomorrow against Aberdeen at Parkhead while the holders will defend their League Cup in the Viaplay Final against Michael Beale’s Ibrox outfit eight days later.

BHOYS ZONE…David Turnbull is congratulated by skipper Callum McGregor, Greg Taylor, Matt O’Riley and Sead Haksabanovic after his goal in the 4-1 win over St Johnstone in Perth.

The Hoops gaffer has fringe players such as David Turnbull and Sead Haksabanovic desperate for first-team action while he has picked the times for January recruits Oh Hyeon-gyu, Yuki Kobayashi and Tomoki Iwata to make appearances.

Liel Abada and Matt O’Riley are also pushing for regular starts and the competition for places throughout the line-up is fierce.

All of this is good news for Postecoglou and those of a Celtic persuasion as former Hoops skipper Paul Lambert insisted: “I always felt you had to be looking over your shoulder all of the time and thinking: ‘If I don’t play well, I could be out here’.

“That is the nature of the beast. You need the competition for places to stay on top of your game. It’s so important for you as a player. I think sometimes you need to play with a bit of a fear factor.

“That’s the way I always viewed it. You had to be at your maximum in every game in every competition. Without a doubt you need that. Celtic as a football club just doesn’t allow you to be complacent. It can’t happen.

HOOP HOOP HOORAY…Paul Lambert celebrates his spectacular strike for Celtic’s second goal in the 2-0 win over Rangers on January 2 1998 on the team’s way to their first title success in a decade. Jackie McNamara, Henrik Larsson, Marc Reiper and Enrico Annoni join in the fun.

“Craig Brown [Scotland manager] was always brilliant for saying that about fitting a game into your time on the pitch. Even if you were on the pitch for five minutes, Craig would say that you had to fit 90 minutes into that five.

“It’s so true. It’s so important because Celtic have to win and everyone has to be ready. The club does not wait for you or anyone. You have to deliver. But, if you ask any player, I think you need to have people breathing down your neck to stay in a team.

“If you don’t have that, it becomes a problem for you. The more you are winning, the more you want to play. You don’t want to come out of the team.”

Lambert, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “Callum McGregor always plays. Reo Hatate mostly plays. Matt O’Riley and Aaron Mooy look as though they come in and out and then there’s David Turnbull.

“What I like about David is that he has a goal in him. Sometimes when you come off the bench, there can be a little less pressure on you when you come off it and I know he would like to have started a few more games.

THE BREAKTHROUGH GOAL…Oh Hyeon-gyu slams the ball behind grounded St Mirren keeper Trevor Carson for his debut Celtic strike. Reo Hatate, who netted twice in the Hoops’ 5-1 Scottish Cup win, gets a close-up view.

“If you look at that little group of five and then add Tomoki Iwata into the mix, you are going to have that competition and you might need a couple of games to settle into it.

“But you want that competition and the good thing about them all is that they all seem to know their roles. It doesn’t matter who plays as regards that and that is testament to the manager having everything laid out clearly.”

With potentially 17 games left of the campaign that has the Hoops nine points clear at the Premiership pinnacle before the Dons encounter, Lambert added: “Now it is weekend to weekend, the manager will get time to implement some things and also integrate the new players even more.

“More often than not, Celtic are in Europe and facing most of the Cup games and it is a packed schedule.

“It’s a bit quieter at the moment I know in terms of midweeks, but you still have to be physically and mentally ready to play high tempo football.

“As a player, I just liked churning out games. Saturday-midweek-Saturday.

“But, as manager, I’m sure Ange will want to do things.”

Another piece of the jigsaw will be put in place tomorrow afternoon and then the focus is on the national stadium the following weekend with the first piece of silverware up for grabs.

Postecoglou and his players look ideally placed and fully equipped to deal with the challengers that lie ahead.

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