Ange Postecoglou has brushed off Barry Ferguson’s big question about bottle – and insisted Celtic have been handling the heat for months.
Ibrox legend Fergie pondered if the Hoops could handle the pressure of the Premiership finale on the back of the Old firm Scottish Cup semi-final defeat in his explosive RecordSport column.
But Postecoglou hit back and insisted his men have already proved they have the mettle by soaring to the top of the league despite a nightmare start to the season.
Celtic head in to the post split scramble with a six point lead – and huge goal advantage – despite walking a high wire following three defeats in their opening six games this season.
Postecoglou insisted his side have risen to the challenge and they won’t change their approach in the sprint for the line.
The Hoops boss – who ruled out Josip Juranovic for a fortnight but will have Giorgos Giakoumakis back for Ross County on Sunday – said: “I think I just see things differently.
“If it’s all been about pressure, when you have lost three games out of your first six, and you know that for the next 32 games that you probably can’t lose another one, or maybe one more, there’s a hell of a lot of pressure there, you know.
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“But we haven’t thought that way so we’re not going to change our thinking now. Back then, what was important to us, was that in each game we try to play our football and approach every game in the same manner and keep building on that.
“And that’s what we’ll do for the next five games. I know people maybe now just look at it and think ‘they are in a good position here – they might be able to win it’.
“But we’ve been working under stress and pressure the whole way through. And I think when you do that, it almost becomes normal to you that this is just another week where you have to win a game of football.”
Rangers have the chance to cut the gap to three points at Motherwell today before Celtic head to Dingwall to face Ross County on Sunday.
But Postecoglou insisted the title is still in the hands of the Hoops and he’s not thinking ahead to next week’s final Old Firm showdown in Glasgow’s East End.
He said: “Totally. It’s about what we do. We’re five games out, we know that four wins gets us the trophy so we don’t have to worry about anything else and we haven’t worried about anything else.
“Again, the key to all that is to get three points on the weekend. Because if you look beyond that, you can trip over yourself.
“We know if we get a win on the weekend, play well and put in a strong performance against a tough opponent, that means for the last four games exactly what our goal is.
“We want to finish strong. We want to still continue to perform at the best possible level knowing the prize that’s at stake.
“If you start thinking about things differently or approaching things differently then you run the risk of losing what you have got us to this place in the first stage.
“We’ve been really big on just making sure that we treat every opponent with equal respect – irrespective of whether it’s home or away – and try to produce a performance we know, at the minimum, gives us a chance to win a game of football.
“We’ve done that. We haven’t had any sort of off days. Even on the days when we haven’t won we haven’t been far off it and we’ve drawn games instead.
“We’ve just got to continue with that mindset.”
Postecoglou admitted the return of Giakoumakis was a major boost – while Juranovic pulling up at Hampden last week was a blow.
He said: “Giorgos is all good. He is ready to go. The only one that will miss out is Juranovic. At this stage he is at least a couple of weeks. I don’t know the total extent of it but he will be out for a couple of weeks.”