Top Line Summary

  • Admits the captain is a doubt for the weekend
  • Says spirits are good after Dundee game
  • Praises Shankland's efforts this season
  • Hails Yang's performance, especially against Beck
  • Speaks up Iwata, who has been patientย 

Everything the Celtic manager said to the media, ahead of their game against Hearts in Edinburgh this weekend...

Howโ€™s your squad looking? Thereโ€™s a suggestion Callum McGregor didnโ€™t train today?

Yeah, there are a few players we need to keep an eye on over the next couple of days. Callum came off at half-time during the week due to feeling his Achilles a wee bit and his calf. I know speaking to him at this time of the year, he normally feels it a bit because he plays so much. We have to assess that and see where heโ€™s at over the next 24 hours.

Will it be a late call on him?


Otherwise? (The squad)

Otherwise pretty much the same. The guys are in good health and good spirits, so theyโ€™re ready for the weekend.

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Just on that, your spirits must be in a good place after the other night?

Yeah, it was a high level of performance. Right from the off, everything felt really good in the game. The supporters were brilliant and really pushed the team. The team were never comfortable and never got themselves comfortable in the game, despite the scoreline. We were pushing and were intense, fast and dynamic. There was quality in our goals and thatโ€™s the level of performance that we want. Iโ€™ve always felt it. Our biggest enemy this season is ourselves. If we perform to the level that we can do on a consistent basis then weโ€™re a really good team. Itโ€™s that consistency of now taking that performance into the next game.

Players coming back in top gear. The timing is important as well for players coming back, isnโ€™t it?

Absolutely. When you arrive at 10 games to go, thatโ€™s when the fun begins. Thatโ€™s when youโ€™re going into the business side and thatโ€™s what Iโ€™m really looking forward to. Weโ€™ve had inconsistencies leading up to this point but weโ€™re still very much there itโ€™s still very much in our hands with what we want to do. To have these players coming back is great, and itโ€™s really good timing as you say.

A significant performance last time you were at Hearts. Will you need a similar performance?

Yes, itโ€™s always a difficult place to go. We played really well and scored some really good goals. We lost a goal but over the course of the game, we were excellent in there. Itโ€™s always a great place to go as a Celtic manager or player, as itโ€™s always a good atmosphere. We want to continue with the level of performance there.

Theyโ€™re a good team, but with Shankland getting over 50 per cent of their goals, is it key to keep him quiet?

I really enjoy watching him, because when I was here the first time he was a player that was on the radar and I had heard people speak about him. Anytime I looked at clips, you could see he was a goalscorer. Having come back and seen him now in the Premiership playing, heโ€™s a boy who looks super concentrated in the game. Heโ€™s got really good technique and uses his body well to protect the ball. He scores all types of goals; left foot, right foot and good in the air. Heโ€™s a very good player and one that we have to manage well.

When you say โ€˜on the radarโ€™ did you think of making a move for him?


Can I ask you a question about Yang, about how impressed youโ€™ve been with the way heโ€™s taken his opportunity?

Itโ€™s consistency now. I think what was really good about him was after the game I said he played against Owen Beck earlier on in the season and Owen played him really well, meaning he didnโ€™t have so much joy. I think you can see his progression over six/seven months and his development. Of course, some hit the ground running and others take time, especially at a big club like this here. He showed up really well the other night and was really strong. Good in the one-v-ones and linked up with the full-back well and the midfielder on his side, and ran himself into the ground in the pressing aspect. Really pleased for him, a talented young player, but for all young players itโ€™s about consistency and now itโ€™s onto the next game.

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Can I ask you about Tomoki Iwata? Heโ€™s came back from injury and has been very impressive over the last couple of games. What does he give you, as well as a chance to push Callum on?

He anchors that midfield for us, and allows us to move on. Heโ€™s a very good player but heโ€™s missed a lot of moments this season. It looked as if he was going to get his run in the team but he was out injured. Thatโ€™s been a challenging time for him, and then itโ€™s just about getting him up to speed and trying to get him in at the right time. Iโ€™m really pleased for him because he has given his all in training, heโ€™s just waited for his opportunity. This was a midfield that was very difficult to get into. You look at Matt Oโ€™Riley,ย ย with all due respect he wasnโ€™t starting last year! You had Callum, Reo Hatate and Aaron Mooy, who were the players that were playing a lot of games. He has come in and had a fantastic season, Matt. Tommo (Iwata) has had to be patient but I trust him when he comes in. He plays the game simple, is dynamic at winning the ball back and heโ€™s performed really well in these last few games.

Reo Hatate, is he going to be after the international break? Is he still looking to get back on the pitch?

Hopefully, it will be before that in terms of being with the squad, but he may not be available to play until after it. Heโ€™s working really well, and weโ€™ll be happy when he is back.

No difference with Liel Abada?

The same.ย