Glasgow (AFP) – Brendan Rodgers praised his Celtic players for their professionalism as they equalled a club record run of 26 domestic games unbeaten at the start of a season.
Belgium defender Dedryck Boyata’s 72nd minute header helped the current crop of Celtic stars defeat St Johnstone 1-0 at Celtic Park on Wednesday to match the record originally set by the legendary ‘Lisbon Lions’ side in their European Cup winning season of 1966-67.
The win, Celtic’s 16th consecutive victory in the league, extended the runaway league leaders’ advantage to 22 points over rivals Rangers in second place.
The Glasgow side have made an impressive start under Brendan Rodgers, who replaced Ronny Deila as manager in the close-season, but the former Liverpool boss was keen to shine the spotlight on the efforts of his players.
“It’s a huge honour,” Rodgers said. “I think if you had mentioned that six months ago when we came in either to supporters or to the players themselves then they might not have believed it.
“It got talked about a lot but you’ve got to do the job and you’ve got to work well and get the results.
“It’s a huge testament to them and how well they work on a day-to-day basis, how committed they’ve been to what we’ve been trying to do here and their professionalism.
“It’s been 50 years since the record was set and if you think of all the great players and all the great managers who have been at the football club it shows you just how difficult it is to achieve.
“For this group of players to do it is a real testament to them and they deserve a big congratulations.”
Boyata grabbed the winner for Celtic against St Johnstone on just his second league appearance of the season.
The Belgian was a mainstay of the defence under Deila but has struggled to make an impact this season.
– Speculation –
He has been linked with a move away but Rodgers said there was still a place for him at the club.
“He is a player who has worked really hard in training but he’s just been unfortunate because the team has been doing very well,” he said.
“I know he played a lot last season but he’s hardly played at all this season. But he was ready to take his chance when Erik Sviatchenko was injured for the weekend and I’ve been very impressed.
“I thought he was excellent again tonight. He has qualities I like and it was a great goal to win it.”
Craig Gordon is another Celtic player to be linked with a move, with English Premier League leaders Chelsea reported to be interested in the Scottish goalkeeper.
Rodgers admitted he wasn’t surprised that his players’ impressive form meant they were attracting interest from other clubs, but said Antonio Conte’s side would be wasting their time with any bid.
“It’s a big testament to him and the team. There’s a lot of speculation around many of our players so it’s a great credit to them that they’re performing at such a level that these great clubs are interested in them,” Rodgers said.
“But Craig is very much a part of what I am doing here. He’s 34 years of age and he can go on for a number of years yet and be a real pillar of this team.
“If it’s the case then they’re wasting their time as we don’t want to sell him. His contract is up at the end of the season but we have an option for another year. It’s not something we would even consider really.
“He’s someone I want to lock down for during my time here.”
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