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EX-CELT QUESTIONS HOOPS COMMITMENT

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FORMER Celtic goal hero Andy Walker has questioned the commitment of some of his old team’s players after the “pitiful display” against Rangers.

The champions put in a feeble 90 minutes as they were turned over 2-0 at Parkhead on Saturday.

Remarkably, Neil Lennon’s men could not muster a solitary shot on target at Allan McGregor’s goal during an embarrassing performance that saw them drop four points behind Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox outfit although they have a game in hand.

Walker, who was a striking star in Billy McNeill’s centenary league and Cup double-winning team in 1988, told Sky Sports News: “It’s always a bitter pill to swallow when you’ve lost a game against your greatest rivals and I’ve spoken to more than a few disgruntled and dissatisfied Celtic supporters since Sunday’s pitiful display.

“Granted, Covid-19 issues saw Neil Lennon without Nir Bitton, Hatem Elhamed, Ryan Christie and Odsonne Edouard. But, remember, Rangers, too, were without a notable group of players. Kemar Roofe, Nicola Katic and Joe Aribo while Ryan Jack could all have expected to start the game had they been fully fit.

“In fairness, the simple truth is that Rangers were by far the better side and dominated every aspect of the game.

QUESTION TIME…Neil Lennon has to answer some queries.

“Everyone behind the scenes at Celtic will tell you how strong the squad is this season as the chase is on for a remarkable 10th title in a row.

“I agree on paper there’s plenty of options for the manager in every position, but you can only describe the squad as strong if they are totally committed and focused.

“The big question is, are they?

“What I saw from the Sky Sports gantry at Celtic Park working alongside an equally bemused Ally McCoist was a Celtic side lacking in effort, very little commitment and a shortage of aggression against what was an impressive Rangers side.

“Total commitment is the one quality supporters should be able to take for granted in every player who wears the strip.

“The question of commitment, focus, mentality and attitude has been raised by Neil Lennon himself.

“In the immediate aftermath of the painful defeat to Ferencvaros in the Champions League qualifiers at the end of August, the Celtic manager made the startling claim that he thought some of his players didn’t want to be part of the club and were looking for a transfer.

“His message to the players was that they had to do better and get their mentality and attitude right. His exact words were: ‘If some of you don’t want to be here then leave and let us work with players who want to be here’.

“When asked if it was his impression that some players don’t want to be at the club, he added: ‘Yes, in some cases’.

“Well, the transfer window has come and gone and the least every fan should expect is a group of players with their 100 per cent priority and emphasis on winning an historic title.”

UNDER PRESSURE…goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas must show doubters. 

Walker added: “Vasilis Barkas was signed at a cost of £5million to take the coveted No 1 jersey from Fraser Forster, Scott Bain and Craig Gordon. He has still to show he’s better than any of his predecessors.

“All three who went before Barkas have made important saves at crucial points in big games for Celtic and I’ve yet to see the Greek goalkeeper make the type of save that keeps Celtic in a game or preserves their lead. He was at fault for Connor Goldson’s breakthrough goal.

“Another £8.5million has been spent on strikers Albian Ajeti and Patryk Klimala, who both played against Rangers. Even allowing for the poor service they received, it says everything that Celtic failed to hit the target even once in the 90 minutes.

“In fairness to Lennon and Celtic, this is a team that has bounced back really well from previous defeats. Losing to Rangers last December strengthened Celtic’s resolve to absorb the pain of that defeat and go on an unbeaten run.

“It’ll take something similar to get back on track this time round and I believe the results in the next few weeks will tell you all you need to know about the quality of this Celtic squad and the players’ commitment.”

The Hoops take on AC Milan in their opening Europa League Group H encounter at Parkhead tonight before the trip to Pittodrie to face Aberdeen three days later.

Then there is another European game against Ligue 1 leaders Lille in France a week tonight before the crucial Scottish Cup semi-final against the Dons, delayed from last season, at Hampden the following Sunday.

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Editor

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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