Celtic face Helicopter Sunday on steroids unless bottle they dropped against Rangers is found – Hugh Keevins – Hugh Keevins

A two-horse race in a one-horse town where Celtic have pulled up lame before.

Dingwall is an odd place for Ange Postecoglou’s team to have to sit the ultimate test of nerve in the title run-in this afternoon.

A sleepy town in the Highlands with less than 6000 inhabitants and a home team, Ross County, with just 10 years’ experience of life in the Premiership.

But it’s the place that finished Neil Lennon as Postecoglou’s predecessor a year ago.

That was on a Sunday when the name of the scorer of the winning goal for Ross County, Jordan White, became a rhyming slang for the progress of what was supposed to be Celtic’s 10 In A Row season.

If Ange’s side blow this title from a position of strength a handful of fences from home it would cause mayhem on an industrial scale.

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Helicopter Sunday on steroids.

Not the time, then, when you want to have one of your best players, Reo Hatate, going public with the admission he’s suffering from physical and emotional fatigue.

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Tiredness and mental weariness become self-fulfilling prophecies.

If you think you’re fatigued, you will be.

Celtic bottled it against Rangers in last Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden, to my way of thinking. Rangers got in their faces and Celtic didn’t respond in kind.

The one thing they’ll need, above all else in the league from today onwards is bottle – and five games worth of it.

The memory of Helicopter Sunday in 2005 still sends shivers down the spine of the Celtic supporters.

If their side drop any points on Sunday the traumatized will suffer from vivid flashbacks.

The photo of Lennon booting a container full of energy drinks into the air on the touchline at Inverness, as Celtic lost the title there in 2011 during his first spell as manager, also remains a disturbing image for those of a nervous disposition.

And those of a nervous disposition will constitute the majority of people either present in Dingwall this afternoon or watching the game live on television. There are certain places where Celtic habitually suffer from an inability to express themselves properly on the park.

For some reason, the Highlands give them high altitude problems.

Inverness or Dingwall, it’s too often a Kessock bridge too far.

Celtic struggle to express themselves there in the way Kyogo Furuhashi would if you handed him the words and asked him to recite Tam O’Shanter.

But they’re in need of finding their voice.

Kyogo remains Celtic’s top scorer in all competitions this season, and he’s played for less than 45 minutes over the last four months.

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Celtic's Kyogo Furuhashi
Celtic’s Kyogo Furuhashi during a training session at Lennoxtown this week.

Jota and Abada have dipped in form up front as well and there’s now a question mark against the Portuguese in particular.

Is the appetite to pay Benfica £6.5m to get Jota signed on a permanent deal still as strong as it was earlier in the season?

At the moment he’s all step-overs and no end product.

Abada is all step-overs and poor decision making when it comes to his final delivery.

Time to step up, not step over, for the pair of them.

Next Sunday, Celtic play Rangers. There’s no need to draw any diagrams to explain what that will look like if there’s any damage in Dingwall.

I think it was embarrassing Rangers played back-to-back games that went to extra time over the course of two days, 20 hours and 30 minutes in European and domestic cup football and didn’t suffer from the muscle fatigue that afflicted Celtic at the National Stadium last weekend.

The Hoops now need to prove that it was a blip and they haven’t buckled.

Postecoglou channeled his inner Aussie countryman, Russell Crowe in ‘Gladiator’, when he went all poetic in the aftermath of that game and said: “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.”

The manager should get that explained, word for word, to Hatate and every other player before kick-off today. That might stiffen their resolve and summon up the blood for what lies ahead against Malky Mackay’s praiseworthy team.

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If it doesn’t have the desired inspirational effect on everyone then the one-horse in the two-horse race with most to lose might just have bolted.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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