Davie Hay: Go figure it out Bhoys

WE HAVE reached that stage of the season when who is coming in or going out the door creates more interest than what happens on the pitch.

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Amido Balde's goal during the break in Turkey will bolster his confidence
Amido Balde's goal during the break in Turkey will bolster his confidence

Neil Lennon's side will play their 21st league game of the season tomorrow.

And the fact they are likely to remain unbeaten after Motherwell have visited Celtic Park means they could almost be handed the key to the door - of the room housing the championship trophy.

Let's be honest, their third title in a row was theirs even before a ball was kicked back in August.

And, without the excitement of another Champions League last 16 to hold everyone's focus, as was the case 12 months ago, there is not too much looming on the horizon to get the juices flowing.

So the biggest challenge facing Neil from here on in will be holding everyone's attention, fans and players alike.

That's a big ask. But these are the cards Celtic have been dealt this season - and they have to get on with it.

The acquisition of some new faces, Stefan Johansen for one, will ensure some freshness is injected into the picture, albeit temporarily.

I can understand why so much is being made of the team's unbeaten record, their nine-game winning run in the league, and their domestic shut-out sequence.

It all helps to maintain a goal, another agenda, if you like, while the games are ticked off in the inevitable clinching of the league title and homing in on another league-cup double.

Now, all of the above is worthy of praise, but none of it is easy to achieve. And I believe everyone involved is entitled to be proud of racking up these statistics.

If they can go through the entire season without losing a single league game, it would only be the second time in the club's history.

But will chasing such a goal be enough to maintain an edge? And what happens if they do lose a game?

That's where you have to be professional and find the inspiration and motivation not to allow your standards to drop.

After all, there are thousands of supporters paying good money to watch you, and they deserve to be entertained.

To be fair to Neil and his players, they did just that with their performance against St Mirren in the match before they headed to Turkey.

Perhaps absence will make the heart grow fonder in terms of the fans.

I'm sure the opportunity to get away will have done the players good, and, hopefully, this will be reflected in how they play now they are back.

It's no bad thing it's Motherwell they face first as Stuart McCall's side have strung together an excellent sequence of wins since Celtic beat them 5-0 at the start of December.

I am not saying Motherwell can test Celtic in the title race, but they can test them on any given day.

Which is why, even with a 10-point lead in the championship, I can't really see Neil introducing new faces to a side which, for a few months now, has virtually picked itself.

It was refreshing to see teenagers such as Liam Henderson, Marcus Fraser and Eoghan O'Connell do well when they played in the Antalaya Cup.

But I don't expect them to be taking the place of Virgil van Dijk, etc, in a game like tomorrow's.

Neil will already have one eye on the Scottish Cup tie against Aberdeen in a few weeks, and will want to keep the momentum going into that one. The kids and a few of the fringe players will be given their chance when the title is confirmed.

It will be interesting to see what starting a couple of games and scoring in Turkey has done for the confidence of Teemu Pukki and Amido Balde.

Neil is doing all he can to give them a platform to progress, but it is up to them to show they are ready to grab the chances he keeps giving them. But more eyes will be on what happens with Georgios Samaras and Joe Ledley, should they continue to leave unsigned the contracts offered to them.

Georgios has missed a few games with an injury, while Joe has retained his place in the team.

If they indicate they are leaving in the summer, or even sign a pre-contract agreement with another club, what does Neil do for the rest of the campaign?

Does he still pick them, or play the guys who will be here next season?

Celtic have used the pre-contract system themselves, when bringing in the likes of Kelvin Wilson and others, so they can't complain if any of their players go down that route.

I don't think their presence, if they did agree to join other clubs, would be a distraction to their team-mates. They all know that it could be them in that situation one day.

Let's hope that's not all we have to occupy our minds for the next few months, We'd all rather be watching what new signings can do.


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