Having felt the wrath of Neil Lennon on a
five-a-side pitch a few years back, it was a painful experience and far from pleasant.
A failure to track a runner one Shawlands night was an insight into the Northern Irishman’s standards and desire to win even during a beer-bellied bounce game.
The demand to be better, work harder and pull your weight for the cause is ingrained in his psyche and it’s that respect for him which has been retained from our brief one-hour fling as team-mates.
It has also been reinforced with our paths crossing at media briefings as Celtic boss.
Honest, sharp as a tack, with that heart-on-his-sleeve passion for the job always evident.
All of the hysteria over his team’s current form has the critics howling for change.
Many, if not all of them, should know better.
After suffering three successive home defeats for the first time in 30 years, the champions go into today’s game against Motherwell at Fir Park nine points behind leaders Rangers, albeit with two games still in hand.
It has been far from a great few weeks but why the panic?
Right on cue, calls for a change of manager is classic 10 In A Row chasing angst. But it’s premature and a sense of perspective is a more sensible option.
My old mate Barry Ferguson believes a combined Old Firm XI would struggle to find a place for one single Hoops star.
It’s an opinion right enough but clearly nonsense.
So many observers have been seduced by the impressive blue wave which has been the story of Steven Gerrard’s first quarter of the Premiership season but a bump in the road inevitably awaits.
A calm assessment of both squads would suggest three Light Blue stars have a claim for a spot in the select side – Allan McGregor, Borna Barisic and Ryan Kent, with Steven Davis a decent shout to be squeezed onto the subs’ bench.
For all of Celtic’s recent struggles, they remain the better side.
The quality and gulf in class across the board shouldn’t be up for argument given their on-going domestic dominance.
An improvement at Rangers isn’t in doubt
but the acid test is whether they can get their hands on some silverware and break a monopoly on the trophies which has been a damning indictment of the poverty of genuine competition at the top of Scottish football.
It’s why Lennon wouldn’t swap any of his top players for a few notables across the other side of the city.
The likes of Scott Arfield, Ryan Jack, James Tavernier and even a recently more reliable Connor Goldson remain short of what’s required to alter their status as perennial title chasers rather than winners.
A blunt truth suggests that all of these players are subject to the fickle nature of Old Firm fans and somehow they’ve been transformed during this campaign into winners after being synonymous with season after season of failure.
The stakes have never been so high, it’s why Celtic’s impending Europa League exit will matter not.
Another reality is that European football much beyond Christmas is the exception rather than rule for both Old Firm sides.
Expect Lennon to make an example of a player or two to get his dressing room refocused and those who don’t get his vote will again be reassessing their view next summer.
Two games in hand should be points in the bag early next year as Lennon steers another title back on course.
Nobody knows how to get players to raise their game better when it’s fever pitch never mind a five-a-side one.