Celtic may have come within around ten minutes of losing their domestic invincibility under Brendan Rodgers last time out but Patrick Roberts insists the champions are feeling no pressure in their efforts to extend the remarkable sequence.
They will look to make it 59 matches unbeaten against Scottish opposition this afternoon when Dundee are the visitors to Celtic Park. Two weeks ago, it needed a late equaliser from Callum McGregor to secure a 2-2 draw against Hibernian. According to winger Roberts, it was simply another example of the mentality and durability which he believes can see the undefeated run continue for some time to come.
“I don’t really think the unbeaten thing brings any pressure to us,” said the on-loan Manchester City man. “Right now, we don’t really think about it. We just go out there to try and get the three points. Nothing else really comes into our heads, about being unbeaten or anything like that. We just try not to lose. “You saw that last season as well, the desire to win is huge here. We love that buzz of winning and not wanting to lose is the most important thing.
“You saw that in the way we got the draw against Hibs last time out – we could even have nicked the win in the end. Just not losing is our mentality right now. We’ve had that throughout the season. It has put us in good stead and hopefully we can continue that.
“The way we got the result against Hibs comes down to our fitness. The coaches here work us hard on our fitness off the ball. We keep going to the end. We made a few substitutions, which we can do. We have quality off the bench. It’s about the big squad we have.
“In the last 20 minutes, we can turn the game on its head and turn up the tempo. When teams get tired, we can go at them to get the win.”
Asked if he felt it is conceivable Celtic could go through another complete domestic season without losing a game, Roberts replied: “That’s down to us and our mentality. We’ve got that right now and we’ll have it for a while. We’ll keep going in training and in games, working the same way and showing the same focus which is instilled by the manager.”
Roberts enjoyed some time off during the international break after he was surprisingly left out of the England under-21 squad by manager Aidy Boothroyd. He is uncertain whether it was a consequence of his decision to play for Celtic in the Scottish Cup final at the end of last season, rather than travel with England to South Korea where they were crowned World under-20 champions.
“Whether that had an impact, I don’t know,” he admitted. “The manager picks his squad and I’ll just keep playing my football and scoring my goals here. After that, what happens, happens.
“I’ve been in the England youth system for a while now and it’s great going away with the international squads. But when you don’t, you need to use your time wisely, recuperate and get ready for the club games ahead. I’ve had a few days off and I’m fit and ready to go.”
Roberts used the break to make one of his regular trips home to London to watch his older brother Adam in action for amateur side Barnes Eagles in the Chiswick and District Sunday League.
“As I’ve said before, that’s really enjoyable for me,” said Roberts. “I played football at that level myself until I was about 14, so I know a few of the other boys in Adam’s team as well. He’s not a bad player and scores a few goals, but he missed a penalty the other day and I managed to take a video of it. It’s helped me give him a bit of stick after he gave me pelters for my miss against Rangers at Hampden in the Scottish Cup semi-final a couple of seasons ago!
“There’s only a few people and a couple of dogs watching Barnes Eagles play, but I enjoy it because it reminds me of how much fun I had when I was playing on those Sunday League pitches.
“I guess I’m still having fun now, playing for Celtic. Everyone is in a good mood right now – we’re winning games and playing good football and that’s what we like. Obviously, we know that we need to win games but we still go out there and have fun and everyone has a smile on their face. The main thing for us is to enjoy it – there are always going to be bad times in football so we need to be able to enjoy this.
“Of course, the manager here is great. He wants us to do certain things but he also wants us to use our imagination and creativity. That’s where our best football comes from, just playing off the cuff and improvising, creating chances and scoring goals and we’ve done that brilliantly at times this season.
“We’ve got a big week coming up, with the trip to Germany to play Bayern Munich next Wednesday in the Champions League, but first we have to focus on Dundee and make sure we get the three points.”