DAILY RECORD 🔵 Cameron Carter-Vickers’ calm head will be key to Celtic success at Ibrox – Shango Media

DAILY RECORD 🔵 Cameron Carter-Vickers’ calm head will be key to Celtic success at Ibrox

Alan Stubbs reckons cool head Cameron Carter-Vickers again holds a key to Ibrox success for Celtic – because he brings peace of mind, not merely muscle.

The former Hoops defender believes the American’s assurance and the leadership of skipper Callum McGregor can offer inspiration to team-mates. And, crucially, the pair can take the heat out of the Old Firm cauldron facing the Premiership champions come Sunday. Stubbs knows the influence of Carter-Vickers within Brendan Rodgers’ unit is massive. As a former centre-back, the Liverpudlian is appreciative of the talents possessed by the World Cup stopper.

Carter-Vickers, of course, has shown himself adept in this scenario before. Two years ago to the day yesterday, he grabbed the winner at one end and defended heroically down the other as Ange Postecoglou’s men grabbed a priceless victory in Govan. Stubbs, though, believes Carter-Vickers’ ability to lift others around him is just as vital as his own contribution.

The USA star is returning to peak fitness, having racked up five run-outs since his return at Motherwell in February after enduring injury issues at various points of this campaign. His reappearance at this time of the campaign is crucial to Celtic and Stubbs knows it.

He said: “The biggest thing about him since he has come back into the team is just the presence of being there among the other players. That’s a huge thing to consider because when you have your big players, you are going to the big grounds and the importance of the game, you need that.

“When you are able to look around and know you have the likes of a Carter-Vickers, you think, ‘Yeah, we’ve got a chance here’. With him, he just brings a calmness, an assurance. He brings an experience but also a confidence.

Two of Stubbs' (middle) four goals for Celtic were against Rangers
Two of Stubbs’ (middle) four goals for Celtic were against Rangers

“It is going to need calm heads because the one thing with an Old Firm is that your emotions can run wild. And, with that as well, there comes a nervous energy where you can feel flat and you can feel lethargic because of the hype that you can sometimes put yourself through.”

Emotions are key heading into the contest, as John Kennedy made clear in the wake of last weekend’s win at Livingston. Celtic’s assistant boss insisted Lennoxtown will be the calmest place in Scotland in the days leading up to the showdown as the coaching team and players take a controlled approach.

Glasgow is enveloped in the build-up to an Old Firm clash and Stubbs knows exactly where Kennedy is coming from. He said: “Sometimes you are beaten before you play because you are tired mentally, you are fatigued because of the expectation around the game… the demand of the fans, how important it is, the pressure. This is not just a physically demanding game but a mentally demanding game.”

With that in mind, the 52-year-old knows McGregor is as big a figure as Carter-Vickers when it comes to leading the way and setting an example.

The skipper has been absent for the last four matches due to injury but is working to return for Ibrox in three days’ time and has been over the course before. McGregor was outstanding in running the game as Rodgers’ side won across the city last September thanks to Kyogo Furuhashi’s winner.

Stubbs added: “McGregor will be a factor if he is fit for the game. All of his experience will be needed and, like Carter-Vickers and any influential player, it’s what he does for the other players that is just as important as what he brings to the team himself.

“He is going to be so important and when you look through the spine of their team now, Celtic are starting to look a lot stronger. They have better options now. One area where Celtic have an advantage is they have been there and done it before with some of the players. They know how to handle the occasion.”

Callum McGregor

On that day seven months ago when McGregor ran the show, Rodgers’ side were able to transform a stadium full of home fans into a stressful environment for a group of Gers players then working under Michael Beale.

Stubbs tended to believe a big home crowd is a major advantage but knows it can be a two-sided coin. He said: “That is just another aspect of players handling the pressure.

“It’s like when sometimes people say they would rather be chasing than be in the lead, whereas other people will say they would rather be leading than chasing. I feel this is a different Rangers, a more physical, stronger Rangers team.

“Technically, I don’t think they are as good as what we have seen in the past. But I feel physically they challenge you more. It is slightly different and Celtic will have to, first and foremost on Sunday, stand up to the physical challenge. But also, can Rangers then deal with the pressure Celtic are going to put on them because Celtic are going to have the ball? There’s no doubt about that.

“If I had to put my opinion out there, I’d say – with the way they play – Celtic are going to have more of the ball than Rangers. So if that happens, then it comes back to how do Rangers handle that with the Ibrox crowd potentially getting restless, getting nervous?

“I think Celtic will look to soak up the pressure and deal with it when they have to. But they will try to take the sting out of the occasion by keeping the ball and frustrating the Ibrox crowd.”

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