More specifically, a helicopter fueled up and with the league championship trophy strapped into the back seat that some now believe the Ibrox side’s re-igniting of their campaign could yet lead to being required come the last day of the cinch Premiership season – despite Ange Postecoglou’s team holding a six-point advantage over their fiercest foes with only the five post-split fixtures remaining. John Hartson knows only too well how an unlikely turnaround can become reality. The Welshman was leading the line for Celtic when they threw away a five-point lead inside the final four league games of the 2004-05 season … a last-day defeat at Motherwell – the home side netting twice in the dying minutes to win 2 -1 – forcing the helicopter then flying the silverware to Lanarkshire to divert and drop it off to shock champions Rangers.
Memories of that agonizing afternoon are sure to have Celtic supporters twitchy ahead of their team pitching up in the Highlands on Sunday to face Ross County, before Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men are hosted by their title rivals a week later. Hartson, though, doesn’t believe Celtic’s nerve will fail them as it did 17 years ago, when ultimately there was a six-point swing at the climax. And his confidence in him is attributable to the one crucial difference between the two scenarios. “OK, so there is one more game against Rangers to come at Celtic Park and now you are playing the teams in the top six, so you know it is going to be competitive and there are no easy games. But they do have a good cushion – and that six points is realistically seven with the goal difference of 19 in their favour,” said the 47-year-old, with Rangers boasting a superior goal difference in 2005. “I can’t see them letting it slip. We made the crucial mistake in 2005 when we lost to Motherwell and Rangers won it, but I just cannot see that happening. I think Celtic are a different animal these days under Ange.”
What they cannot be now, though, are treble winners following the 2-1 semi-final loss. Hartson believes that a first domestic defeat in 34 games cannot be allowed to impact on a league assault that has witnessed his old team amass 63 points from a possible 71 across 27 games without defeat. “I still think it has been a magnificent season when you think of what Ange took over when he first came in,” he said. “Celtic need to make sure they don’t get too affected by Sunday’s result. They have already won the League Cup and are in a very strong position to go and wrap up the title and if they go and win the double then Ange would deserve massive credit. Yes, there is disappointment because there was a lot of treble talk. Over the piece, it really could have gone either way. Rangers made it happen in the second-half of extra-time but if Cameron Carter-Vickers had kept his shot on target [at 1-0 for Celtic] the tie would have been over. Rangers found that little bit of energy and I think there were a few calls that went in their favor too.”
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