Unlikely three-time Celtic opponent says Ange's version is the "strongest" he'll face

By Euan Davidson

January 21, 2022

Alloa Athletic man Craig Howie probably wouldn’t have expected to face Celtic three times in his career, as Ange Postecoglou’s side prepare for a test at the Indodrill.

Yet, Howie has managed to face the Hoops twice already in a career spent in the Lowland League and SPFL. The former East Kilbride man was defeated by Ronny Deila’s Celtic in 2016. Kazim-Richards and Griffiths scored the goals that day [BBC].

In 2019, Howie got a move to Clyde and faced Celtic again. Howie was in the Bully Wee’s team when Olivier Ntcham, Scott Brown and Vakoun Bayo fired the Hoops past Clyde [BBC].

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty images

Now at Alloa Athletic, Howie will go through a once in a lifetime experience for the third time. And he says Ange Postecoglou’s iteration of Celtic is the toughest he’ll come up against. That’s despite going against the Hoops in 2020, when Celtic were Scottish Champions and still unbeaten since 2016 in cup competitions.

Howie told the Daily Record: “It’s very surreal, to be honest.

“When I was at East Kilbride I thought it’d be a once in a lifetime opportunity for a player around my level, but it’s come about a lot more often.

“I’m very fortunate that this will be the third time I’m in this situation and it’s always a great occasion when you play the top teams. But it’s definitely the strongest Celtic team I will have come up against.

“The way they are playing, the intensity they are playing at, it’s going to be very difficult. The last two games I played against them, we were comfortably beaten and that was against sides that didn’t play to the level Celtic do now, so it will be, in my opinion, even harder this time.”

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67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

Ange Postecoglou and Celtic will face a resilient Alloa Athletic on Saturday in a tough venue

On paper, you’d expect Celtic under Ange Postecoglou to breeze through to the next round of the Scottish Cup. Even Howie himself admits that this is the strongest Celtic side he’ll come up against.

But there’ll be no room for complacency. The Indodrill is not the kind of stadium Celtic are used to, and that’ll surely play a factor. Alloa’s manager, Barry Ferguson, has his own motivations for creating a cup upset here. There is absolutely no room for complacency here.

Having already secured the Premier Sports Cup, Ange Postecoglou will be keen for Celtic to reestablish dominance in cup competitions. And so will his players; show-piece finals at Hampden are the kind of occasions they would’ve signed for.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

To get there, though, you need to beat what’s in front of you. It’ll be a real change of pace for the star-studded Celtic squad, away from the lush turf of Paradise and the beautiful views at Lennoxtown.

It should be a great game. No doubt, some fringe players and new signings will surely feature for Ange’s side on Saturday night, but that doesn’t mean a compromise in quality.

Not in the slightest.

As for Howie, it’s another big occasion. How often can you say a once in a lifetime event has happened three times?

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