Celtic assistant manager Chris Davies has admitted he has been secretly eyeing up the prospect of setting a new British record of unbeaten matches in domestic football for the past six months.
If the Premiership champions avoid defeat at St Johnstone this lunchtime, they will make it 63 consecutive games without defeat against Scottish opposition. It would eclipse the previous mark of 62 games set by legendary Celtic manager Willie Maley’s side back in 1917.
While a traditional “one game at a time” mantra has been the standard public response from Celtic during their remarkable sequence under Brendan Rodgers, Davies has revealed that the 100-year-old record has been in their sights for some time.
“I was aware of it when we first equalled the Lisbon Lions’ record of 26 games unbeaten from the start of a season back in February,” said Davies.
“Then, at around 40-odd games unbeaten [in April], I was thinking ‘why is no-one talking about this?’
“We were still totting them up. It was good that it was a silent thing, but I was aware that it kept on progressing. But because we don’t talk about it, it’s hopefully just going to be a consequence of how we prepare for each game.
“I think everyone was privately aware it was happening. But we don’t talk about that. We’ve had other objectives, in terms of getting to the League Cup final, making sure we’re top of the league and dominating. Europe’s different.
“It won’t be something that’s our single motivation for this game. What’s got us to this point is ‘win the next game – focus on that’ and giving everything and doing your best. Hopefully the record is the consequence. That will be our mentality.
“To be honest, we won’t talk about it [with the players] before the game. We haven’t spoken about it at all.”
Celtic’s last domestic defeat came at McDiarmid Park back in May 2016 and Davies regards today’s visit to Perth as one of the most dangerous fixtures they could face with the record on the line.
“There’s no doubt about that,” he added. “We’re going to a team which has been in the top six for a few years and are still in the top six now and it’s away from home. It’s always going to be a difficult game. We’ve got to make sure we stay at the top of the league. That’s our main motivation, not the record.”
Celtic are coming off the back of an encouraging Champions League performance against Bayern Munich on Tuesday night. Despite their 2-1 defeat, there were many positives – none more so than what was arguably winger James Forrest’s finest 90 minutes in a Celtic shirt.
“James [pictured inset] is playing at the top of his game right now,” said Davies. “Looking at Tuesday in isolation, that performance was of a very high level.
“He was fantastic. He was up against one of the best left backs [David Alaba] in the world. You look at his receiving of the ball, his touch, technique, the passes and the detail on his passes, the way he was running, whether it was his decision-making when to dribble or take the ball inside.
“The quality of the ball for Stuart Armstrong’s early chance at the back post was top class. The lift for Callum McGregor’s goal was top class.
“James has got really good technique. We have had loads of good attacking players here in the last 17 months and he is someone who maybe doesn’t get spoken about as much as the other guys.
“He’s such a humble lad, who does his best every time he players, and he’s a very good player.
“It’s important when he has nights like that it’s recognised, because sometimes it doesn’t when you come through the academy and others are being signed. I was delighted for James on Tuesday because he’s a very good player.”