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Monday 20 August 2018

COLLINS: CELTIC ARE IMPROVING

John Collins insists he can see progress at Celtic as manager Ronny Deila finds himself under continuing scrutiny ahead of the League Cup third-round clash with Hearts at Parkhead tonight.

The Norwegian has been criticised for some of his signings, team selections and results since taking over from Neil Lennon in the summer.

The Hoops were effectively knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers twice, leaving them in the Europa League, and have already dropped seven Premiership points in six matches.

Celtic's 1-1 home draw with Motherwell on Sunday, where Deila made six changes to his starting line-up, brought a fresh wave of criticism to the door of the former Stromsgodset boss.

However, his assistant manager Collins said: "When a new manager and new players come in it takes time for them to gel and to get to know each other.

"But when you are a big club, of course, you have to try to win the majority of matches and we know that.

"When you are Celtic manager or assistant manager you are always judged. That is the reality of the job. But obviously it takes time.

"A lot of new players have come in, a lot on loan and they have to adapt to Scottish football and the surroundings.

"They are working hard on the training pitch. It takes time, it is not going to be perfect right away but we see progress."

Much has been made of Deila's assertion that fitness levels are not yet where they should be, although he stressed no implied criticism of predecessor Lennon.

For his part, Collins (below) aspires to the fitness heights reached by World Cup and Champions League winners.

The former Scotland, Celtic and Hibernian midfielder said: "We can all get better and learn from other countries.

"You look round the world and the top teams are all fit and go for 90 minutes.

"We all watch the Champions League, World Cups, teams like Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, the top players, and they are all super-fit nowadays. Look at the top nations who are winning.

"You just have to watch their performances and look at them and see that they are doing something right."

Turning to domestic concerns, Collins accepts that despite Celtic's indifferent start to the season, they will still be expected to progress past Championship leaders Hearts, who are fresh from a 5-1 win over Cowdenbeath at the weekend.

The former Hibernian boss said: "I saw Hearts at the weekend and they played very well. They are playing with a lot of confidence as you would imagine for a team at the top of the league."

Collins also believes Leigh Griffiths still has a future at Parkhead. "There is no problem. Leigh has to work in training and prove to the manager that he deserves a jersey," he said.

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