FORMER Celtic goalkeeper Pat Bonner has urged his old club to seize an opportunity which passed him by and win the double.
The Irishman enjoyed many honours during his two decades at Parkhead, but the double always eluded him – most frustratingly in 1988, the club’s centenary season, when injury ruled him out of the Scottish Cup win over Dundee United. Now, 25 years on, he wants the current Celtic squad to realise what a rare opportunity they have when they play Hibernian in the Scottish Cup final on 26 May.
“You can’t take it for granted, absolutely not, because the chance only comes around every so often in your career,” Bonner said yesterday. “It’s not easy to do. People talk about it being easy to win the league without Rangers, but there’s a different type of stress.
“Yes, you’re not looking over your shoulder, but that keeps players on their toes. Neil [Lennon] has to keep the guys going at home and in Europe and all the focus is on Celtic.”
Lennon has rested some of his players in the past couple of weeks, but Bonner expects everyone to be back for the final two league matches. “These two games now, he will get his team together and focused for two weeks. I think [resting people] has been the right thing to do.
“If the club didn’t have the cup final, the players would already be on holiday and ready to come back [for the Champions League qualifiers]. There are also players going on international duty so they will only get two or three weeks off.
“I know when I played in European Championships and World Cups that your mind gets more tired than your body and it’s really hard. If you don’t get rest and recuperation, then it’s very difficult.”
Bonner also urged current Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster to stay at the club, suggesting that the Englishman could still make his way into Roy Hodgson’s squad for next year’s World Cup. “I think he can get to the World Cup while he is at Celtic. I did. I played in two World Cups and the European Championships.
“I know it is England, but the Champions League was a great opportunity for him and he proved to everyone he could play. The injury set him back a bit and now he is trying to recover that form again. Next season is going to be a big one for Celtic with the Champions League and then he can make decisions later on. But at the moment, he shouldn’t be thinking about anything else.
“If they [England] are going to be serious about trying to develop his international career then they will have to give him a chance.”
Bonner was speaking at the Uefa Goalkeeping Coach Education Seminar at St Mirren Park in Paisley, attended by ’keepers and coaches from across Europe.