Eddie Howe 'fits Celtic criteria' as defender claims Rangers gap can be instantly bridged

It is just over eight weeks till Celtic embark on Champions League qualifying action with which next season will begin. Under the direction of Eddie Howe, expected to be appointed the club’s next permanent manager imminently.

Celtic's Stephen Welsh says the Parkhead squad need to come back "fitter and stronger" to knock Rangers from the perch ocuppied by his club for the previous nine years. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

The club’s emergent central defender Stephen Welsh, to his great credit, is unabashed in his assessment that everything must change for the Parkhead side over the close seaosn. The 22-year-old recognises that is the requirement to avoid Celtic plumbing the depths they have been immersed in across the barren, brutal season brought to a conclusion with a typically exasperating scoreless draw away to Hibs on Saturday.

Defensive frailities have been homed in on as the cause of Celtic’s grievous form - which left them an eye-watering 25 points adrift of champions Rangers in the final Premiership table. But their shortcomings at Easter Road demonstrated they have been sorely lacking at the front as well as the back - Saturday the sixth league game wherein they have drawn a blank across the 38-game campaign. In the 30 league encounters of their pandemic-abridged nine-in-a-row season, they had one such outing. Yet that Celtic’s world has been turned upside down in this Covid-19 age, tells Welsh that the gap - and 38-point turnaround inside the past 15 months - can be closed instantly.

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“[The draw at Hibs] was pretty much the story of the season – we can’t score goals,” he said. “We know we have to go again next season. We need to get our rest over the summer and regroup. We need to come back fitter and stronger for next season. We don’t know what will happen with the manager situation but the club will take care of that. It’s important for the players to come back in good nick. We’re going in to the Champions League qualifiers straight away so the games will come thick and fast. It’s been a problem breaking teams down this season. It’s not like creating chances, it’s maybe the final ball or the finish hasn’t been as good. It’s something we’ll need to do a lot of work on. But we’ll regroup and go again.

“We’ve seen it this season with the way Rangers have turned it around on us. The gap the last few seasons has been massive. It’s the fine details that have let us down this season and the overall performances have not been good enough. But hopefully the performances and results will be better next season. We’re all pretty calm about [the managerial situation]. The club will deal with it the way they should. We’re positive what the future holds, regardless if it’s a new manager and coaches, whatever, we’ll be ready to work hard for them and do well. I think it’s natural to think [any new manager] will be watching if you have an idea a new face is coming in. You want to go out and prove how good you are, prove you should be in the team next season. That’s all you can do as a player. Obviously Eddie Howe was a fantastic manager for Bournemouth over the last few years. He fits the criteria. He plays good football from what I saw, so it’s exciting more than anything.”

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