Davie Hay: Celtic must make their lucky break an escape to victory

CELTIC have got to play their get-out-of-jail card to the maximum effect.

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Ronny Deila should sign a front man with presence, says Davie Hay
Ronny Deila should sign a front man with presence, says Davie Hay

That means passing Go in the Champions League play-off against NK Maribor and collecting a lot more than £200 for making it to the group stage.

To give Ronny Deila the best chance of achieving this, I hope to see a striker added to the squad before next week's deadline for playing in these two vital matches.

I'm talking about a different type of front man, with a real presence, who can lead the line, link up with those around him - and score goals.

That would make a huge difference to the way this team plays.

I fully appreciate such players come at a premium. But with so much back on the line, it is surely an investment the club should look to make.

Let's not kid ourselves on here. Celtic are back in the race for a Champions League spot after Legia Warsaw's appeal against their punishment for fielding an ineligible player was, correctly, thrown out.

But none of what has happened since the infringement came to light alters the fact that, over the two games against Legia, Celtic were simply not good enough to progress in the competition.

They were soundly defeated in both legs, and it had nothing to do with the late appearance at Murrayfield of Bartosz Bereszynski.

Nothing can camouflage that, and I am sure Ronny is not trying to kid himself - or anyone else - otherwise.

He knows his side have to play much, much better if they are to have any chance of grabbing this lifeline.

Their mindset has to be different, and their approach.

In Slovenia, they must flood the midfield, protect the back line, and keep possession much better than they did in the games against Legia.

But this reinstatement is something of a double-edged sword.

While everyone is relieved they have a second chance, the pressure is on to ensure Celtic don't crash out of qualification for the Champions League twice in three weeks.

Redemption is what they are seeking - not another heavy slap in the face.

As a result of all the controversy surrounding the result against Legia, so many eyes will now be on these games against NK Maribor.

Some will be happy if Celtic go out because they will feel that they don't deserve to be there ahead of Legia.

But this is not a situation of Celtic's making. They were not the guilty party.

Legia broke the rules, Uefa implemented them.

It must have been very difficult for everyone at Celtic to keep their counsel while officials from Legia tried to embroil them in the sorry mess.

The moral blackmail ­tactics they employed, with open letters and TV appeals, were reprehensible, and I applaud Celtic for not rising to the bait.

It must have been tough when their honesty and integrity was being questioned so blatantly by Legia.

But desperate people resort to desperate things, and you can understand why the Polish club were prepared to try anything to wriggle out of the situation they had put themselves in.

Of course the punishment does not fit the crime.

But it must be remembered they were not thrown out, they had a 3-0 result given against them - as per the rule book - which, in this case, happened to be enough to see them go out on the away goals rule.

But as these are the rules which everyone signs up to when they enter the competition, Uefa had no choice but to abide by them.

I can't see the Court of ­Arbitration for Sport coming to any other conclusion when Legia take their case there.

The rules may now be changed, and it does seem a severe punishment for an administrative error when we see players commit physical assault on the field and fans behaving in a seriously racist manner, yet their clubs do not get hit so hard.

That's for Uefa and the clubs to sort out when the opportunity arises for the rule book to be amended.

Celtic can only go by the rules that presently exist, and, on this occasion have benefited greatly from them. They have not, however, been handed a ticket to the group stage. They still have a lot to do before they get there.

They have got to rise to the occasion, and certainly play much better than they did against Legia.

Even their performance in beating St Johnstone on Wednesday fell far below what will be required to get the job done against Maribor.

Second chances don't come around very often. But it is only a chance - and one Celtic will do well to take.

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