John Hartson convinced Celtic will avoid Helicopter Sunday repeat of 2005 this season as ex-striker makes title prediction
The former Hoops frontman was part of Martin O’Neill’s side that suffered final day heartache 17 years ago
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Former Celtic striker John Hartson admits he doesn’t anticipate another dramatic Helicopter Sunday episode, insiting the destination of the Premiership trophy will end up at Parkhead.
The Welshman was part of Martin O’Neill’s Hoops side that blew their title bid on the last day of the season back in 2005 after finding themselves five points clear with just four games left to play after beating Rangers 2-1 in a post-split Old Firm victory.
That day has left Hartson with a permanent mental scar but 17 years on, Celtic now find themsevles in a similar position as they take a six-point lead into the five remaining fixtures.
Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final win has seemingly galvanised Rangers ahead of the top-flight resumption this weekend but Hartson reckons Ange Postecoglou’s men can cope with the weight of expectation on their shoulders.
He said: “We made the crucial error in 2005 losing to Motherwell and Rangers won it at Easter Road — but I just can’t see it happening.
“Celtic are a different animal these days under Ange. To be six clear with five games to go — and a goal difference of 19, which effectively makes it seven points — is a strong position.
“They just need to make sure they don’t get too affected by Sunday’s result.
“They’ve already won the League Cup and they’re in a very strong position to go and wrap up the title.
“There’s one more against Rangers to come at Celtic Park and now you are playing the teams in the top six, so you know it is going to be competitive and there are no easy games.
“But they do have a good cushion and I can’t see them letting it slip.”
Celtic’s dream of a fifth Treble in six years came to an end at Hampden Park as their rivals secured a final showdown against Hearts on May 21.
Immedaitely after their 2-1 defeat at the weekend, captain Callum McGregor gathered his hurting team mates together for a post-match huddle.
Hartson believes senior players like the Scotland international and goalkeeper Joe Hart will have a pivotal role to play over the remaining weeks of the season to ensure they don’t suffer any further slip-ups.
Celtic travel north to face Ross County on Sunday and Hartson expects his former club to bounce back, with the trophy now within touching distance.
He stated: “I have so much admiration for Callum and how he’s taken the armband on.He’s a fantastic professional and a great leader. He’ll be rallying the lads at Lennoxtown all week.
“Sunday has gone. It’s all about pushing for the title. Guys like Callum, who’ve been over the course before, are important because you always know there’s noise if you lose a game to Rangers.
“Celtic just need to stay focused and do what they’ve done most of the season.
“I still think it has been a magnificent season when you think of what Ange took over when he first came in and the start they got off to.
“If they go and win the double, then I think Ange would deserve massive credit.
“Yes, there’s disappointment because there was a lot of Treble talk. Over the piece on Sunday I thought the game could really have gone either way.
“Rangers made it happen in the second half of extra-time but if Cameron Carter-Vickers had kept his shot on target at 1-0 and not hit the woodwork, the game would have been over.”
Japaese striker Kyogo Furuhashi made a substitue appearance in the second half but the Japanese striker was evidently lacking match sharpness after his four-month injury spell on the sidelines.
However, Hartson is adamant Furuhashi can play a leading role for the Parkhead club in the next month.
He added: “It was hard for him on Sunday. He was up against big powerful centre-halves and I thought Celtic missed Giorgos Giakoumakis.
“He was a hero for Celtic in the last final at Hampden and it just didn’t quite happen for him on Sunday but he’ll play a part now in the run-in.
“He looked short of match fitness but it’s to be expected when you look at how long he has been out for.
“We all know he has that little bit of quality and you’re always thinking that if he’s on the pitch, he might do something magic for you. It will come. He just needs minutes in his legs.”