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Sir Kenny Dalglish: We’ll soon find out who can handle the winter break

© Craig Williamson / SNS GroupThe then Celtic boss, Neil Lennon, headed for Dubai last January, and returned to a storm of criticism
The then Celtic boss, Neil Lennon, headed for Dubai last January, and returned to a storm of criticism

It will be interesting to see how our Premiership clubs perform this week.

They’re coming off the winter break – brought forward due to Covid concerns – and recent history has shown us to expect the unexpected.

Celtic didn’t find any kind of momentum this time last year when they came home from Dubai to a storm of criticism for going away in the first place.

Rightly or wrongly, manager Neil Lennon was heavily criticised.

Several players and backroom staff missed their first game back against Hibs due to Covid isolation regulations,and it just went from bad to worse after that.

They were put firmly under the microscope for leaving Scotland when the country was in lockdown.

And, within a matter of weeks, Neil had resigned from his position, with the club 18 points behind runaway leaders, Rangers, who would ultimately end the Hoops’ hopes of 10-in-a-row.

Twelve months earlier, the Ibrox club discovered that their break had come along at exactly the wrong time.

Steven Gerrard’s squad also went to Dubai, and that was off the back of a victory at Celtic Park which put them in the driving seat to win the league title.

But they lost all momentum on their return to action, and many people put that down to something not being right at their warm-weather training camp.

Steven was grilled about that at the time, and strongly defended their January preparation.

As far as I’m concerned, I think it’s just too straightforward to blame the “winter break” for losing games. Many more different factors come into it.

Either way, it will be interesting to see how it all goes from here on in, and not just for the Old Firm.

The fact that none of the clubs were away to sunnier climes this year is maybe a leveller.

I’m fairly sure the players would have enjoyed having eight or nine days off, and spending time with the family once the Boxing Day games were out of the way.

A break is good. But, soon enough, the natural urges kick in, and players want to get back out on the pitch, and coaches want their squad on the grass.

Especially now that fans are to be allowed back in proper numbers.

Supporters will be desperate to see their team in action, especially if new signings have been made during the early part of the January Transfer Window.

With so much at stake for different prizes in the top flight, it will make for interesting viewing.

Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou has been particularly active in the market, and has managed to get some business done early.

Across Glasgow, Giovanni van Bronckhorst is looking to add to his squad, having already sold Nathan Patterson to Everton.

Elsewhere, Shaun Maloney has been busy at Hibs, and there is also interest in Martin Boyle from Saudi Arabia that they are trying to fend off.

Callum Davidson has recruited well at St Johnstone, but it’s going to take a massive collective effort at McDiarmid Park for the Perth club to climb to safety.

Dundee United have added striker, Tony Watt, on a pre-contract deal, which may well be brought forward to this transfer window if a fee can be struck with Motherwell.

Considering we are only at the halfway stage of this window, I think there has been plenty of business done, and there may well be a bit more before the end of the month.

As is always the case, every manager will be asking his chief executive to push the boat out as far as they can to bring in that extra player or two to enhance the squad.

And they will also be begging them not to sell their best players if they can avoid it.

That’s understandable. Whether you are going for the title, trying for a place in Europe, or desperate to avoid relegation, the stakes are high and jobs are on the line.

Away from the buying and selling, all Premiership clubs seem to have been in agreement about allowing five substitutes to be used in every league game for the rest of the campaign.

For me, that’s a sensible solution, and credit to the SPFL for showing flexibility and common-sense while Covid is still a major problem.

It gives every manager more options. It’s up to them to use that extra scope wisely.

We are under way tomorrow night with Hibs visiting Celtic, and a host of tasty encounters to savour.

So, now, everyone get strapped in for the ride. It’s going to be a helluva five months.