Robbie Neilson's November comments show how far Celtic have come ahead of Hearts title clash

By John McGinley

May 1, 2022

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson was in a confident mood ahead of his last visit to Celtic Park late last year.

In fact, he told The Daily Record he was eyeing it as a battle for second place, stating that the runners-up spot was ‘up for grabs’ before being beaten 1-0 thanks to a Kyogo Furuhashi goal.

Ange Postecoglou was having none of it at the time, telling reporters: “Statement games are at the back-end of the year. Let’s just keep our pistols in our holsters for a little while and just, we’re going to play each game as we have so far.  I’ve said a few times, you can get distracted by so many shiny objects everywhere.”

Oh, how right he was.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

If nothing else, the narrative heading into the last Hearts trip to Paradise shows how far we’ve come in the last six months.

Celtic actually could have been overtaken by Hearts at the time, sitting just two points ahead with a game in hand when they came calling for a mid-week clash.

Now they’re 25 points behind us, Celtic are six points clear at the top of the table and we can effectively clinch a title win with a victory over them this Saturday.

This is why I am struggling to be disappointed with today’s draw against Rangers. Sure, it was an opportunity to rub it into them. But this is a good Ibrox side and the derby games have been tight affairs this term, save for one.

Celtic 1-1 Rangers | LIVE Reaction

Celtic 1-1 Rangers | LIVE Reaction
67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

The big picture is not only the progress we’ve made since the start of the season but even since December, when everyone still had Rangers installed as red hot title favourites.

Celtic are on the verge of a Scottish Premiership win now. It’s going to be so, so sweet when it comes whether against Rangers, Hearts or, as it looks like, Dundee United.

Savour this month, because we simply can’t take it for granted after last season’s horror show.

Next term, I don’t think Celtic will be in the conversation when it comes to a battle for second place.

In other news, John Hartson tells Celtic supporters “it’s done” after watching rivals fail to win.