Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Former Celtic full-back Mark Wilson: Playing in the Champions League group stage keeps your mind on the domestic job. You can’t lose your focus

© Brian Stewart/EPA/ShutterstockMark Wilson shows Cristiano Ronaldo a clean pair of heels during Celtic’s Champions League meeting with Manchester United in 2008
Mark Wilson shows Cristiano Ronaldo a clean pair of heels during Celtic’s Champions League meeting with Manchester United in 2008

Celtic will start their Champions League campaign in the group stage this season for the first time since 2008.

Mark Wilson was part of the Hoops squad 14 years ago, and he knows the benefits dining at European club football’s top table can have on your domestic form.

Pitting their wits against Manchester United, Villarreal and Aalborg coincided with a run of 12 straight wins in the SPL.

But after they failed to progress in Europe, Celtic’s form suffered, and Gordon Strachan’s side couldn’t make it four-in-a-row.

So for Wilson, there is a lesson to be learned by Ange Postecoglou’s side as they get ready for the new campaign.

“The important thing is to always stay focused on every game, and not take your eye off the ball in domestic games,” he said.

“Sure, every player really looks forward to the Champions League. Those are the glamour games, and why you work so hard all year round to win the League.

“But every game is important when you play for Celtic. You can’t take your foot off the pedal.

“I’m sure Ange and the players will be fully focused at all times, and that they will go on to win the title again.

“Having European football in midweek does keep your mind on the job.

“You play, you have a recovery session, you then have a preparation session, and then play again. It’s non-stop. But it’s what we all want.

“I’d rather have played twice every week than go Saturday to Saturday. All the lads were the same.

“It was great having a midweek Champions League game to look forward to. You felt a real buzz from the Sunday onwards. I couldn’t wait for it.”

Wilson is delighted his old club have gained automatic entry into club football’s richest tournament, and he feels they will do well.

The former Dundee United defender reckons Postecoglou’s men have the depth and quality to do well on all fronts this season.

He said: “The League will always be the priority, and we wanted to win again back in 2008/09.

“I think we were seven points ahead at one stage, but our challenge filtered away.

“We drew a lot of games after going out of the Champions League, and Rangers took advantage.

“However, it was great getting into the Champions League that season.

“Playing against Manchester United, Villarreal and Aalborg was a great experience, but we only picked up five points.”

After opening the campaign with a goal-less draw with Danes, Aalborg, Celtic lost 1-0 away to Villarreal and 3-0 at Old Trafford.

Scott McDonald’s goal earned a draw against Manchester United at Celtic Park, then the Hoops lost 2-1 in Denmark before their only win in the group, 2-0 at home to Villarreal, with Shuan Maloney and Aiden McGeady the scorers.

Looking back, Wilson admits: “We were desperate to do better, but we lacked a bit of consistency that year in the tournament.

“But I know how special it is to be involved in the Champions League, and the Celtic players and supporters will be keen to for it to get underway this season.

“They will be desperate to find out their opponents, and get stuck in.

“In the past 20 years or so Celtic played against the likes of Barcelona and AC Milan a few times.

“It would be great to get Real Madrid. I think that would be really, really exciting for the fans and the players.

“Having the European Champions coming to Parkhead would be so sweet. Carlo Ancelotti’s side is full of world-class players.

“Getting Liverpool wouldn’t be too bad, either. I really enjoy watching Jurgen Klopp’s team.

“There is obviously a strong bond between both clubs, and that would be another glamour tie.

“But it’s also about getting points on the board and trying to win. It’s not just about making up the numbers.

“I’m sure Ange will hammer home that message to his players. They are all winners at Celtic Park. They won’t settle for defeats.

“It will be interesting to see if Ange does tinker with things for the European games.

“He didn’t last season, and there were some fantastic games. But the team conceded more goals than they would have liked.

“To be honest, I don’t think he will go all defensive. He’ll stick to his beliefs. It will be exciting, and it will be edge-of-the-seat stuff for long periods.

“The fans will be entertained. Celtic won’t win every game in their section, but they will give it a good go.

“They will face teams with superior players but they can never be ruled out over 90 minutes. It can be done. The unexpected can happen.

“I suppose to pull off something extraordinary would mean getting into the knock-out stages. That would be brilliant.

“But let’s just wait and see what the draw brings. I’m excited about it, I really am.”

Callum McGregor was back directing operations for Celtic against Blackburn, minus last season’s mask (Pic: Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The draw takes place at the end of August. Before then, Celts have their SPFL Premiership crown to defend.

Wilson knows the importance of getting off to a good start and said: “It’s about winning games.

“Celtic kick-off at home to Aberdeen, and they need to put down a marker.

“Sometimes, on trophy day, it can be a wee bit strange and you get caught off guard. That can happen against the Dons.

“Ange’s team lost at that stage last season, away to Hearts, but they were all finding their feet and getting to know each other.

“It’s different now. They are a solid unit and they know exactly what the manager wants from them over 90 minutes.

“They are the team to beat, and I think they will win the League again.

“Rangers will provide a stiff test, for sure, but Celtic can dominate the campaign.

“But they can’t take the next 10 months for granted. They need to work hard every day, and give it their all every time they pull on the jersey.

“Led by captain Callum McGregor, I think they do that.

“The fans demand it from them – and so does the manager.”