“A draw wouldn’t be the worst result for Celtic,” Jackie McNamara

It’s all to play for tomorrow lunchtime and if Celtic were to win at Ibrox against theRangers, then it really would be a statement victory which puts us in pole position to retain our Scottish Premiership title. However, if we can’t win, it’s essential that we do not lose it -that’s the view of former Celtic great Jackie McNamara.

Jackie McNamara and Henrik Larsson  celebrates with the trophy after winning the 119th Scottish Cup Final between Celtic and Dunfermline at Hampden on May 22, 2004. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Jackie knows all about these matches and pressurised title fights into the bargain, having been a vital cog during the Martin O’Neill-era at Celtic Park, when both sides were really slick outfits. Part of a side with the likes of Neil Lennon, Chris Sutton, Alan Thompson and Henrik Larsson, McNamara was a great utility player who was very adaptable and was deployed in various areas by O’Neill during those golden years at Paradise. He was always dependable and often helped plug holes in that great team.

Kyogo Furuhashi celebrates during the Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and St. Johnstone at Celtic Park on March 16, 2024. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The player who was signed from Dunfermline Athletic back in 1995 by the Hoops, rekcons that there are differences to Celtic this term under Brendan Rodgers. Speaking to Sky Sports Scotland’s Mark Benstead ahead of this one, he said: “Yeah, I think there’s subtle differences in terms of how they play. The intensity that Ange had in his team, I think certain teams are obviously sitting in against them, which makes it a bit more difficult. Your not seeing the best in the likes of Kyogo. You see that they’re at their best when they’re pressing. It sets the tone. It allows the midfield to come up and it creates space for them. And it’s difficult for the opposition to get back in. And I think we’ve seen that in the last few weeks – getting back to that.

Looking back over some of the goals, he continued: “I think when they’ve got this space to go in to, Kyogo isn’t getting picked up and he’s got his back to goal. He’s always better when he’s facing the opposition goal and there’s space to run in to.

I think that’s been the main difference from this season. He’s not scored as many goals because he’s maybe got his back to goal more. But as I said, there’s been good signs the last week’s that we’re starting to see a higher intensity. They’re moving the ball quicker. They creating more opportunities.”

When asked directly if intensity could be more important this weekend and if Celtic could get any joy in a particular area against Phillipe Clement’s men, he replied: “Yeah, I think they’ve been solid enough. Again, when the manager came in there’s been a defensive structure. They’ve changed little bits there. They’re out wider players in and it’s kept their full-backs defending more.

But I think there’s space there. In between the centre-backs and full-back, Celtic can hurt them. You know just over the top, if it’s Kyogo coming in to the space there. And the last thing you want is your centre-backs away out in the left-back area. That’s something that I think Brendan will try and implement at the weekend. You know just balls over the top. I know it’s a bit different but you see the strength there. They seem to struggle when their backs are against goal.”

With the need for the home side to come out and really press the Champions, McNamara suggested it could provide Celtic with the chances they need to win the match in Govan. “Yeah, they’re at home. Celtic’s won the first two games this season. Their problems haven’t been against theRangers. It’s other teams sitting in. But you expect theRangers being at home with all the supporters to try and dominate the ball, which creates space and as I said, if Celtic get right in about it from the start and keep that intensity up, which they’re capable of doing, I think it’s areas they can hurt them.”

On the decisive nature of the outcome of the fixture for both sides, Jackie said: “Yeah, it’s A really important one because there’s not many games left. I think it’s imperative Celtic don’t lose the game. TheRangers have got the game-in-hand. There’s not many games to go and a draw wouldn’t be the worst result for them”

Paul Gillespie

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About Author

I'm a Garngad Bhoy through and through. My first ever Celtic game was a friendly against Italian side Parma at Celtic Park, in 2002. Currently a student of English Literature and Education at the University of Strathclyde for my sins. Favourite game would be a toss up between beating Manchester United with that Naka freekick, or the game against the Oldco when Hesselink scored in the dying seconds. I'm still convinced Cal Mac is wasted playing that far back.

1 Comment

  1. Allaboutceltic on

    Agree with Jackie. Although it’s always a pleasure in gubbing then at any park (and I think we will tomorrow), a draw would be more detrimental to them as they know they simply don’t have the players to beat us, especially at Celtic Park. It will also affect them mentally going up to Dens Park through the week.