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Livingston boss Gary Holt knows there is no future in sitting in against Celtic

Gary Holt has exceeded expectations this season (SNS Group)
Gary Holt has exceeded expectations this season (SNS Group)

GARY HOLT won’t ask his Livingston players to do anything he hasn’t done himself.

That includes having a right go at a team who are looking almost invincible in domestic football.

Celtic have been in imperious form recently, showing the power and pace that made them unbeatable during Brendan Rodgers’ first season in charge.

They thrashed Hearts 5-0 last weekend after Craig Levein decided to try to frustrate the Hoops.

Those definitely won’t be the tactics adopted by Livi when the Champions visit the Tony Macaroni Arena this afternoon.

Holt’s playing days in England provided him with a couple of harsh lessons about how to play a top team.

He recalled: “I’ve been in many games where I’ve had my backside skelped by sitting off teams because they were far better than us.

“Arsenal were the best I faced during my time with Norwich City. I was unfortunate enough to play against The Invincibles during season 2003-04.

“For the first 25 minutes, we were the better side. They could have had Lauren sent off in a last-man-type scenario. He was booked.

“I actually looked up at the clock and thought: ‘We’re doing alright here, we’re in the game’.

“Then we came in at half-time 3-0 down.

“That is the difference when you switch off for a split second, they’re away and you’re done because they were exceptional players.

“They’d had their Invincible season and we could have been the team to stop them, but we weren’t!

“Thierry Henry was the difference.

“In one of the goals, he kicked the ball and ran past four of us.

“He wouldn’t have to try to beat you with skill. If you gave him a big gap he’d just kick it through and go.

“We were actually shouting: ‘Somebody bring him down’. But nobody did.

“He just kicked it, ran to the byline, crossed it and Pires tapped it in.

“It was simplicity.

“That’s why it’s about people taking responsibility and accepting a booking.

“It’s not going to be a red card. I’m not talking about chopping him down.

“Grab his shirt and pull him down. We were too honest that day.”

The Livingston manager had another day that’s possibly even more relevant to today’s match.

He said: “I remember going to Chelsea with Forest in the League Cup, when we were a League One team, and our plan was just to sit in, and sit in.

“We never got out, never laid a glove on them. And Chelsea weren’t the team they are now, although they were good.

“We were 3-0 down at half-time and they hadn’t created much. It was just that we were so ensconced in Plan A of sitting-in that we couldn’t get Plan B into action. It was gone.

“So I’ve said to the players that we’ll give it a shot against Celtic. If we get beaten, we get beaten.

“It’s not having a go that’s the problem. If we don’t have a go, we sit in and they get a 90th-minute winner and lose 1-0, we’ve still lost the game.

“We’re going to get toe-to-toe, play our style of football and get in their faces.

“We’ll try to upset them and attempt to win the game.”

Livingston make very few changes to their line-up and Holt is keen for the spine of his side to stay together for as long as possible. Continuity is a big part of their great start to the season.

He said: “I’m saying to them that if you’re in the team and doing your job, you’ll stay there.

“You want the spine of your team to be strong and then have others flit in and out around them – the creative players who can hit the heights, but also hit the lows.

“We’re fortunate in Scotland that apart from this December, we don’t play many midweek games.

“Next month will be make or break and everybody needs to be fit to play.”