In a hugely significant week for the club when all eyes were firmly on the Champions’ League group stage draw in Istanbul yesterday. The prestigious event will see Celtic join the elite clubs from the top leagues in Europe for the first time since season 2017/18 and go up against Real Madrid, RB Leipzig & FC Shakhtar Donetsk.
After the 2-0 victory against Hearts on Sunday, Ange Postecoglou took some time to reflect on a solid start to the season, look forward to upcoming draw and being tested against the best in Europe. With automatic qualification for the group stages secured by winning back the Scottish title last season , the boss has welcomed the opportunity to have an extended pre-season to hone in on the teams fitness and to push the squad a little bit harder in training.
Admittedly frustrated at the stop start nature of our performance and the step back from the free flowing football he pushes for on the training pitch, he was pleased the players maintained their focus and discipline to control the match to get the rewards over the 90 minutes. With both strikers scoring again he knows the benefits of having 2 quality players to call on and with the amount of matches coming up it will mean more game time for our Greek & Japanese goal scorers, although maybe not necessarily on the pitch at the same time.
Hinting at the rebuild already undertaken from the start of last season he has no plans to stand still, driving the club and the signing of Sead Hasabanovic tells us that we are still very much at the start of the journey under the boss. All with the full support of the board.
Joe Hart echoed the sentiments shared by the manager, acknowledging we played well against Hearts, but maybe didn’t hit the heights of recent weeks. Although, attacks were breaking down, “we kept going”. Enjoying life at Celtic park, being part of a team trying to play the right way Joe is looking forward to another opportunity to play at the highest level in the champions league – it’s where the club wants to be, it’s where the players want to be. Over a decade after making his first appearance in Europe’s premier club competition, Joe is focusing on this with the same excitement and determination.
Taking nothing for granted because of the fierce competition for places in the team, the former England stopper knows there are no guarantees and that helps push the players every day in training and on matchday. This is driven from the top with the manager instilling a belief amongst the players that they can compete against the best if they work together. This is illustrated best with the options at centre back where competition for places means the work done on the training pitch pays dividends if and when changes are required between Carter-Vickers, Jenz, Starfelt or Welsh.
The players and fans can look forward to more electric nights under the floodlights at Celtic Park and we may well have another new face in the squad to help with the new challenge.
Martin Donaldson is a Glasgow East End Bhoy, He made my first trip to Celtic Park in 1983 for a 0-0 draw with Brechin City & thankfully that never put him off going back. He now sits perched high in section 409 of the North Stand with his 2 kids making memories along the Celtic Way.
He loves picking out those matches from yester-year to find out much more about the legendary names & faces that have graced the Celtic Jersey over the years. He is a keen fundraiser for The Celtic Foundation & The British Heart Foundation as they both strive to make a difference and to change peoples lives all over the world.