CELTIC failed to beat Rangers because they weren’t allowed to work a flanker.

That is the view of former Hoops centre-half John Hughes, who spent one season at the club in 1995/96 after Tommy Burns had signed him from Falkirk.

The burly defender played in six games against the Ibrox outfit and, amazingly, a very good Celtic team lost only three matches throughout the campaign – all to Walter Smith’s side.

The setbacks cost Burns’ men the chance of preventing Gers from winning their eighth title – there was a four-point difference – and there were odd-goal defeats in the Scottish Cup and League Cup.

So, Hughes knows all about the disappointment of losing encounters against their Glasgow neighbours and he reckons Steven Gerrard’s team’s 2-1 victory at Parkhead – their first win in the east end of Glasgow since 2010 – will be a massive psychological boost for the Govan club.

The 55-year-old ex-Hibs, Caley Thistle and Falkirk gaffer made some observations about the third derby of the campaign, the previous two being won by his old club.

Hughes, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “Looking at the two games, everyone knows Celtic got lucky in the Cup Final.

“I watched the game at
 Parkhead to see if there was a change in personnel and tactics.

PARADISE LOST…Neil Lennon watches Celtic go down to Rangers at Parkhead.

“After Rangers won it, I was intrigued to hear what Lenny had to say. He touched on what I saw, he couldn’t get his wingers into the game. Rangers have had a solid shape all season.

“You need to match that in midfield and I was hoping Olivier Ntcham would have played.

“Celtic are at their best when they have their wingers flying down the outside, but Rangers didn’t give them any room to play.

“Callum McGregor and Scott Brown were over-run in midfield. They two are trying to start the play and get up and support which is why I had hoped Ntcham would play in there.

“I am a huge Mikey Johnston fan – the boy will be the next sensation – but there are horses for courses. Listening to Neil afterwards he knew that he didn’t get his wingers into the game and he didn’t in the League Cup Final, either.

“For me, you have to come up with a different way to win the game. But Lenny has really controlled his emotions.

“I used to love watching him in the dug-out at Easter Road and we can all remember all the aeroplane stuff.

“Sometimes he was his own worst enemy, but we have all been there and it is the passion and desire that is in you.

“His interview was fantastic. He is a clever boy. He will analyse it. He knows himself. I didn’t agree with what I heard that Rangers were miles on top.

“Celtic had two cleared off the line. Ryan Christie missed a penalty. If he scores that, the game changes.

“I have played in enough of these games to know how it changes. It is a mentality thing.

“That is what is intriguing me. Ntcham would be in anyone’s team and should be in
 Celtic’s starting 11. Even Nir Bitton. An Old Firm game it is a game for experience.”

* John Hughes was speaking at a Scottish Cup sponsors William
 Hill media event.



About Author


Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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