Ronny Deila has challenged his Celtic players to use their stunning 8-1 demolition of Hamilton Accies as the benchmark for the rest of the season, writes Stephen Halliday.
The Scottish champions moved six points clear at the top of the Premiership with their most commanding display of the campaign so far. Leigh Griffiths claimed a hat-trick in the rout at Celtic Park which leaves struggling Hamilton only above the relegation play-off place on goals scored.
Deila believes Celtic have found a renewed vigour after several months of often unconvincing form during which second-placed Aberdeen have stayed in title contention. He said: “We deserved eight goals tonight and could have had many more. We had so many chances. But the three points are the most important thing and we have to be happy with eight.
“Yes [it send a message to the other teams] but it is only one game and three points. We need to know why we were good tonight and put out the same performance on Saturday against St Johnstone. But when we play at this level, it is tough to beat us.
“It was a fantastic night and a very good performance. It is always hard to keep up the tempo and intensity when you are 3-0 up after ten minutes but we did that very well. We looked sharp tonight. I’ve seen it in training over the last few weeks that we have looked better and better.
“We have played so many games before Christmas, with a lot of emotions so far this season – happy days and bad days. We have been working since starting training on 20 June after not having a very long break. But we’ve had a bit more time to rest since Christmas and you can see more energy in the team.
“I feel a freshness in the group, I see smiles and people looking forward to games. That’s very important.”
It was another miserable defeat for Hamilton who have won only one of their last 14 league games while also crashing out of the Scottish Cup at the first hurdle to League 2 side Annan.
It heaps further pressure on player-manager Martin Canning who remains committed to trying to turn their fortunes around.
“We need to wait and see what happens,” said Canning when asked if he felt he would be given time to do so by the Accies board. “I will continue to try and do the best I can. I’m gutted tonight. When you lose goals in that manner, three in the first ten minutes, you’re giving yourself no chance. We didn’t have enough leadership on the park tonight to keep us together.
“But I think we can turn it around. This was never a game our season would be defined by, although it’s not good enough, it’s as simple as that. Obviously it hurts, I’m hurting more than anyone. I have to keep thinking that this performance and result against Celtic, as much as it hurts, it isn’t going to define our season.”