Celtic to start ‘taking teams apart’ after Hamilton rout

Gary Mackay-Steven, right, celebrates with Leigh Griffiths after the striker scored against Hamilton. Picture: SNS
Gary Mackay-Steven, right, celebrates with Leigh Griffiths after the striker scored against Hamilton. Picture: SNS
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Gary Mackay-Steven believes Celtic are ready to “take teams apart” as they focus their energies on winning the domestic treble over the next four months.

The champions produced their most convincing display of the season so far on Tuesday night with the 8-1 mauling of Hamilton Accies at Celtic Park which took them six points clear of Aberdeen at the top of the Premiership.

It was a timely response to criticism of several lacklustre performances in a campaign which has seen manager Ronny Deila come under intense scrutiny.

Mackay-Steven is confident Celtic can now gather significant momentum as they attempt to secure a fifth successive title and also annex the League Cup and Scottish Cup.

“The treble is certainly quite realistic,” said the 25-year-old winger. “We can do that if we are at it in every game.

“I certainly know there are winners in our changing room and we feel we can go on a right good run now and, hopefully, take teams apart like we did against Hamilton.

“We feel we can do that to anyone on our day. I certainly hope so and speaking on behalf of the boys in the changing room, we all feel we can do that.

“We’ve not had too many 
big results like the one on Tuesday, so it was great for the confidence. It shows what we can do when we really get into our stride.

“In the previous few home games we hadn’t scored too many goals, teams have come and made it really hard for us so we were determined to get that early goal as we knew the game might open up after that.

“We took confidence from that and carried it on, it was really enjoyable. Leigh Griffiths got a hat-trick and is on fire right now, but everyone is chipping in with goals and it could have been even more than eight with the chances we created. Now we want to take that into Saturday’s game against St Johnstone.”

Mackay-Steven is also hopeful the Accies rout signalled a fresh upturn in his own fortunes at Celtic. He hit the ground running when he was signed from Dundee United at the end of the winter transfer window last year, scoring on his debut against Partick Thistle after just 38 seconds and grabbing three goals in his first seven appearances for Deila’s side.

But the Thurso man has struggled to build on that initial impact and Tuesday saw him make his first Premiership start since October.

“Personally it was a good night for me,” he added. “I got the nod to start and I really enjoyed it out there. So hopefully that can continue now.

“Signing for a big club like this, I knew there would be spells out of the team and if the team. So it’s been tough if you’re out watching from the sidelines but I’ve enjoyed every minute of being here and I’m just trying to work as hard as I can in training, trying to catch the manager’s eye and hopefully after this I’ve done that.

“I knew it wouldn’t all be highs at Celtic, there would be times when there are lows. I say lows, but it’s not really been like that because I’m still enjoying being with the boys, training every day.

“I’m just biding my time, I know what I can do and want to show that when I get a chance. I’m very happy here.

“I have worked on all areas of my game since coming to Celtic. If you’re not hitting the heights when you’re playing, the squad has such strength in depth in all areas that you might be out for a few games and someone else might come in and do well.

“So that keeps you on your toes and makes you improve every aspect of your game.

“You can never get comfortable because we’ve got a big squad and we’re always looking at signing new players. I definitely feel I’ve improved all aspects of my game here. There are higher expectations here that there were at United, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. You want to be playing every game with pressure and be going into every game with the mentality to win and be winning every week. If you’re not doing that, you can expect to get a bit of criticism but that hardens you up a bit.

“I feel good now and feel ready to make an impact in the second half of the season. My match fitness could get a little bit better. I tired in the second half on Tuesday, but that’ll come.

“We’re coming into the part of the season where the trophies are won, the business end of the season if you like, and I want to play my part.”