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Gordon Smith: Whatever happened to Celtic’s invincibility?

Gordon Smith of Rangers tackles Celtic'sTommy Burns, 1979 (SNS Group)
Gordon Smith of Rangers tackles Celtic'sTommy Burns, 1979 (SNS Group)

A few days after scoring a brace for Rangers in a dramatic Old Firm win that had seen us come from two down to win 3-2, I found myself in the dressing-room listening to Jock Wallace lay into the team for a first-half display that left us trailing St Mirren 1-0.

I wasn’t too concerned because I thought I was playing OK, personally, and it must have showed on my face.

I know that because all of a sudden Jock lurched across the floor and grabbed me by the jersey. He leaned in and bellowed in my face: “And I am talking to EVERYBODY”.

It was quite a shock at the time. But although he could be quite hard I respected him because he always let you know what was expected of you when you played for his teams.

That was in 1977. A year later I got a close-up view of the other side of the coin. Celtic needed a last-day-of-the-season victory over us at Celtic Park to pip us to the title and were trailing 1-0 when, early in the second half, the late Johnny Doyle got himself sent off.

However, with the likes of Roy Aitken, Danny McGrain and Murdo MacLeod at their competitive best, they fought back to win 4-2. They won the title and the legend of the invincible 10-men-Celts was born.

I tell these stories now because I believe they illustrate the character which is required to play for both of these clubs.

Character which was sadly lacking in Celtic’s performances in back-to-back defeats by Ross County and Aberdeen.

The game at Pittodrie was particularly perplexing, as they had been controlling the game before Jonny Hayes struck his wonder goal.

You get that in games. The biggest teams can concede and when they do they can expect the opposition to get a lift from it.

But you have to be able to deal with that. To deal with all manner of setbacks that come your way, be it dodgy opposition goals, sending-offs or injuries.

Celtic will win the title – if they don’t it will be because they have thrown it away. Ronny Deila has better quality at his disposal in the shape of men like Leigh Griffiths, Scott Brown and Kris Commons.

Derek McInnes, though, has a tight group who are working better as a team. He is definitely getting more commitment from his players.

For that to be the case, it reflects well on the Aberdeen manager and not so well on his Celtic counterpart.