Craig Gordon has thrown down a challenge to Celtic’s would-be title rivals – “catch us if you can.”
Brendan Rodgers’ side head the Premiership only on goal difference from arch-rivals Rangers, while a mere three points separate the top four clubs with Kilmarnock and Aberdeen tucked in immediately behind them.
The Celtic goalkeeper, however, believes those aren’t the only sides in with a shout, claiming that even Hibernian in eighth place could push themselves into contention.
Gordon admitted he and his team-mates would like to have been further ahead as they returned from a winter training camp in Dubai, but added: “We are top of the league, we won the League Cup, we’re still in Europe.
“If you were looking at three things at the start off the season to have happened by now then it’s those three. We have done the job we set out to do but we can always improve and that’s what we were doing in Dubai.
“We are trying to improve on what we’ve done. We have laid good foundations by starting well enough. Sure, we would like to be further ahead, but, in terms of what we’ve achieved so far, it’s job done.
“Now we need to focus on having a good end to the season, pressing home the good we’ve done and it could be another special year.”
Celtic’s advantage at this juncture may lie in only five goals, although they do have that all-important game in hand but, insisted Gordon, Rodgers’ players have the experience of being over the course year after year, something those hoping to end their run of seven consecutive championship flags can’t bank on.
He said: “You could go down to Hibs in eighth who are in this. With a good run they could get right up there. There’s a lot of teams involved but that will bring its pressure to those teams because they are not used to being in this position.
“It will be an interesting second half of the season. We will see who can come and have a go. From our point of view, we’re happy with the position we are in. We are used to the pressure that brings and I’m looking forward to pressing home our advantage and getting away from the rest of the teams.
“We can take confidence from the fact we know what it takes to get the job done. And, really, nobody else has done that over recent times because we’ve won it the last seven years. It is something that’s new to those teams and a lot of the players who will need to step up and deal with it.
“That will come on in the second half of the season. It’s something we’ve enjoyed when the big games have come along and, more often than not, we’ve stepped up and performed. We can rely on each other when that comes.”
Celtic return to league action with a visit from struggling St Mirren following a Scottish Cup tie against Airdrie still smarting from suffering defeat by Rangers for the first time in 13 encounters in the final game of 2018.
Ryan Jack’s strike, which took a deflection off the heel of Celtic captain Scott Brown, was enough to clinch the points for the Ibrox club with Gordon preventing his side suffering a heavier defeat in what all admitted was a well below par performance by his side.
As far as Gordon was concerned, however, being praised for those stops was no consolation at all. He said: “I had a few saves in the game which is always nice as a goalkeeper.
“But it means more if you get something out of the game. It was a bit of a reversal from the game at Celtic Park when Allan [Rangers’ goalkeeper McGregor] made a number of saves and we won 1-0.
“I was happy with the way I performed and if Broony hadn’t tried to shut his legs I probably would have saved that one as well. On the day I felt good and on top of my game.
“I was as disappointed as anyone going back into the dressing room knowing that we missed the chance to go six points ahead with a game in hand. That would have been an excellent position, albeit we’re in a good one at the moment.”
Gordon turned 36 on Hogmanay but thoughts of retirement have yet to enter his head.
“Hopefully I’m not slowing down. If I can keep on top of injuries and make sure my body is in a fit state to go out there and perform then I’ll want to keep playing,” he said. “It’s a while since I’ve had to play like I did at Ibrox and make as many saves because that doesn’t happen at Celtic, apart from the occasional European game.
“I just have to train well, keep improving and prove that I’m the one who should play. If I can do that then I have a chance.”
Gordon has, though, had to make way for his understudy Scott Bain for Celtic’s successful League Cup campaign but, he admitted, he doesn’t know if Rodgers, pictured above, will follow the same approach in the Scottish Cup. “I’d like to play,” said the former Hearts and Sunderland player. “I want to play in every game. That’s probably because I missed a chunk in the middle of my career. I am fit, I am able to play, so want to be involved all the time. I want to be selected for the Scottish Cup. That will be the manager’s call. If I don’t then I’ll do the best for the team and Scott if he’s playing. We will both deal with it when it comes.
“The manager may speak to me about it. He might not. It depends on how he is thinking. He didn’t say anything regarding the League Cup. He told me Scott was playing in the first round and then after that he just picked the team. I have no problem with that whatsoever. I would rather I was playing but if he does speak to me and tells me Scott will play for the whole of the cup, or it’s left round to round, then it really doesn’t matter.
“We have so many games and we’re all aware the full squad will be used.”