STEPHEN WELSH insists he ENJOYS the pressure as Celtic continue to answer the critics as they eye their twelfth title in 13 years.

And Brendan Rodgers’ men also have ambitions of retaining the Scottish Cup on the iconic date of May 25 at Hampden as they prepare for the home quarter-final tie against Livingston next month.

The champions have been slammed for substandard displays in recent weeks, but their 2-0 victory over St Mirren in Paisley at the weekend was their eighth win in an unbeaten sequence of nine games.

The only blip was the 1-1 draw with Aberdeen at Pittodrie, but versatile defender Welsh is adamant there is no panic at Parkhead as they gear up for the visit of Kilmarnock on Saturday.

THAT’S MY BHOY…Brendan Rodgers and Stephen Welsh after the 2-0 Scottish Cup win over St Mirren in Paisley.

The former Scotland Under-21 international skipper said: “There are no cracks. We are confident in what we do. The gaffer is confident in what we do and we stick together, not just the back four, the midfield three and front three and whoever comes on the pitch.

“We are together, a united team, so we will move forward.

“We always have the fire in the belly. Every team comes to beat us and our job is to stop them, play our own game and we’ve done that in the last couple of games.

“There is always a determination in this group. Not only the quality, but the character that we have.

“We’ve a lot of experienced players who have won trophies. We won a treble last season, so the experience we have in the team is excellent.

“We are always looking at the next game, we know that’s the cliche, but that’s what we do. We have a couple of home games to hopefully put in good performances.”

Twenty-four-year-old Welsh, who has been at the Hoops since he was a kid and has graduated through academy, continued: “I’ve been under pressure for 15 years now. Every week you need to go and win.

THE LAST POST…Stephen Welsh crashes into the upright as he lends support to Joe Hart after the keeper’s brilliant save from St Mirren’s Alex Gogic.

“You enjoy it, you enjoy the pressure because you need to go and win. A draw or a defeat is a nightmare, so we know the pressure and we stand up to it all the time.

“We’re used to this. Every season the pressure for every Celtic player is huge.

“We deal with it really well, especially the last couple of seasons, we have been very successful and it’s about us maintaining the standards to be successful again and win the trophies that are available to us.”

Welsh accepted the Hoops can’t take anything for granted and, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “I wouldn’t say vulnerable, no. We are so determined.

“It’s like tunnel vision, we don’t focus on anything else, we focus on ourselves, how we will play, break teams down and defend.

“We take every game 100 per cent, every training session leads up to the next game, so for us, it is normal for us to be under that pressure and we always deal with it very well.

“We are always strong together. We know that every team wants to beat Celtic and our job is to stop that. Our job is to win games, perform well and win trophies for the club.”

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