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Not super, smashing or great . . .

IT seemed like more trouble than it was worth to ask Ronny Deila if he had ever heard of Bullseye, or to explain the old TV quiz show to him in the near certainty that he never had.

Callum McGregor has continued his ascent by signing a new five-year contract at Celtic. Picture: SNS
Callum McGregor has continued his ascent by signing a new five-year contract at Celtic. Picture: SNS

After some hapless contestants had mucked up their answers the host, Jim Bowen, would turn the spotlight on a speedboat, or a caravan, or whatever else passed for a great prize in the 1980s, and say: "let's have a look at what you could have won".

Chelsea, Schalke and Sporting Lisbon: that's what Celtic could have "won". Those three comprised the Champions League group completed by Maribor. Instead, for losing to the Slovenian champions, Celtic were yesterday thrown in with an altogether lower class of opponent. They have Red Bull Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb and Astra Giurgiu for company in Group D of the Europa League.

The group is unappetising in just about every regard. The opposition is unglamorous without being pushovers. Celtic will have hard work shifting tickets for the games at Parkhead (season-ticket holders can buy a three-match package for £60) yet the three teams, from Austria, Croatia and Romania are capable of inflicting damage home and away. It was a draw which only twisted the knife still further in Celtic's side after the pain of going out of the Champions League three nights earlier.

"We can make an impact in the Europa League," said Deila, who summoned up enthusiasm despite admitting that he knew little about the three teams to be faced between September 18 and December 11. "Things are happening very quickly here. We're getting better - and we will get better all the time. When we get players back from injury and players in, we will develop. You never know how good we'll be in October. As for right now, we weren't good enough. That's all we have to accept. Come back in October and November, we'll see then.

"There are some good teams in this group but I don't know so much about them. It will be exciting. Our aim is to get experience, of course, and to try to get through to the next stage. It's very hard for me to say whether we should get out of this group. We have a good chance to make some good results there but these are still international games against good teams."

The old line about an Old Firm club only ever being three defeats away from a crisis could be put to the test tomorrow. Celtic face Dundee at Dens Park on the back of losses to Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Maribor. Dundee are unbeaten so far this season and are level with Celtic on six points, albeit with a game more played. "It's very different when you see that three matches into the league, you're season is over: that's if I listen to some people," said Deila. "We've got a lot of matches left in the league and a lot of matches in Europe and the cups, hopefully."

Celtic's squad continues to evolve. Wakaso Mubarak is likely to make his debut tomorrow. Aleksandar Tonev is not yet fit and will return to full training on Monday. Stefan Scepovic, the Serbian striker joining from Sporting Gijon for £2.3m - the one big signing so far - will sign for four years after passing a medical.

"He is more of a target player, he scores and is a box player. He's very, very good with both legs and scores in the air as well, so he can make something from crosses and add power," Deila added. "He is different to what we've had before, something we've been looking for, so I'm pleased to get the deal done."

One other signing satisfied him yesterday: Callum McGregor, whose ascent has been stunning this season, agreed a new five-year contract. "My contract was up at the end of the season and this felt like my last chance to break through at Celtic," said the 21-year-old. "There came a time in my head about a year ago that I realised things might be slipping away, so I thought: 'I've got to take a chance and try and make a career in football'. I'm delighted with the way it's worked out.

"Now I've got the deal I'm not going to sit back and accept I've got a five-year contract, I want to push on and maybe in two years sign another five year deal. I just want to get better and better."

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