Why Celtic are like a Premier League team - and the player who is 'so, so good at football'
But there was one thing that made the 30-year-old Englishman breathe a sigh of relief. There are six games remaining to save Kilmarnock’s Premiership status, first away to St Mirren on Saturday and then five matches against the teams with them in the bottom six. “No, nothing like Celtic,” Vassell smiled. “They are a cut above. Those games we can all see more of the ball and be a bit more of an attacking threat and hopefully we can do what we need to do in those games.”
Vassell was full of praise for the way Celtic dismantled Kilmarnock in a 20-minute massacre. Kyogo Furuhashi put the visitors ahead on seven minutes and by the time the clock struck 27, Celtic had scored three more goals and even missed a penalty. "We made mistakes and they just capitalised on them,” admitted Vassell. “They are such a hard team to play against anyway, the second you give them a bit of a sniff or incentive they just capitalise and are off to the races.”
When asked just how good this Celtic team is, Vassell was emphatic. “They are genuinely some of the best players, great players,” the former Blackpool and Rotherham man said. “When I played Premier League teams in the cup. Genuinely, the top teams. [Callum] McGregor is so good. He is so good at football. He runs you away to make space for other players and you have [Greg] Taylor coming in the pitch. The way they are organised, and they are so disciplined, they just keep the ball. My comparison would be a Premier League team.”
Kilmarnock can at least take solace from the fact that they regrouped when behind 4-0, scored a consolation goal and finished the match quite strongly. “It took us a little bit too long to regroup and settle down,” said Vassell. “We obviously did that eventually but you can't give them four goals at home in 20-odd minutes. But they are top of the league for a reason. We know what we can do and we know if we started that way it would have been a much closer game and, who knows, we could have frustrated them for a period and nicked a goal. Of course it's frustrating, you don't want to lose any game let alone 4-1 at home. But it's Celtic. So you have got to give them a little bit of respect but we let ourselves down.”
Sitting 11th in the league and just a point above bottom-placed Ross County, Vassell knows Kilmarnock will have to be stronger for the remainder of the season. He is convinced, though, that the team has the mental toughness to escape relegation. “We proved that when we went down 1-0 against Hearts and came back to win the game,” added Vasell. “We have had some good results this year. We proved against Celtic – it could have been five, six, seven but we did eventually regroup and settle ourselves down. Maybe it was the subs who came on and changed the dynamic and our shape a little bit but we have definitely got the fight, 100 per cent.”