Celtic planning to 'sprint across finish line' despite being 'thrown in at deep end'

It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish, runs the lyric of the celebrated show tune.

Celtic's Greg Taylor during a cinch Premiership match against Ross County.
Celtic's Greg Taylor during a cinch Premiership match against Ross County.

Following Celtic’s 2-0 victory away to Ross County that restored their six-point and 19 goal-difference advantage over title rivals Rangers in the cinch Premiership, Ange Postecoglou’s squad and their faithful would be entitled to give that lusty rendition, especially the pay-off line about “going to finish on top”. Supporters didn’t require a second invitation to indulge in such celebratory singing at Dingwall. However, the club’s players wouldn’t dare be so presumptuous with a six-point lead and still 12 points to play for – especially with Rangers pitching up to the Parkhead area in the cinch Premiership on Sunday a fortnight on from prevailing over Postecoglou’s men in the Scottish Cup semi-final.

Celtic full-back Greg Taylor is canny enough to present himself as a most diplomatic and straight-laced observer on his team’s position. Yet, even he can’t help but allow the mask to slip, even just if ever so slightly, in setting out the target for the final quartet of top-flight encounters, beginning with this weekend’s derby. The ultra-professional manner in which Celtic took care of a tricky-looking fixture against Malky Mackay’s side could only be emboldening.

“We have four big league games and we want to sprint across the finishing line by winning all four,” Taylor said. “The focus is purely on the next one. We want three points with another strong performance. We know that there are 12 points to play for and that is a lot of points. We have done alright so far keeping with those beliefs, so we will stick with them. We have had moments throughout the season where we have had disappointing results. Last weekend was one of them. In a cup competition, you get no second chances, so we had to go out and get Ross County and start well and we did that.”

Taylor believes character, as much as footballing class, has been crucial to Celtic’s ability to recover from a start that seemed to doom their title prospects and stitch together a 28-game unbeaten sequence in the Premiership underpinned by 24 victories. Even as a full team’s worth of new players were knitted into Postecoglou’s senior set-up. “The gaffer has touched on the fact we have signed good people, which is important,” the Scotland international said. “We have a strong changing room and everyone is out there fighting for each other. We tried to build almost a family and I think we have done that this year.

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“Everyone in that changing room has ability that they can bring to the table, but there’s also good people in there. People have been thrown in at the deep end. Carl [Starfelt] played his first league game without having even trained. There have been difficult moments, but no-one has ever looked for excuses and we still won’t. We have a core of experienced boys. Callum [McGregor], Joe Hart, Tom [Rogic], Nir [Bitton]. People who have been there. So it helps to have them in the team and the rest of us just follow suit from the example they have set.”