IT didn’t take long for Hatem Abd Elhamed to realise that at Celtic, a crisis is only 90 minutes away. The few disappointments he has suffered since his move to Glasgow from Hapoel Be’er Sheba in the summer taught him that straight away.

But Elhamed knows that to flourish at such a big club, you have to learn to take the rough with the smooth. The contrasting scenes at the end of their two matches against Cluj at Celtic Park this season were testament to that.

After defeat at Livingston last time out, then, the dissatisfaction from the large visiting crowd was entirely expected, but Elhamed is determined to have Celtic Park rocking once more over the next week as they look to get back on track in the Premiership against Ross County, and then consolidate their position at the top of their Europa League group with a win over Lazio.


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“Fans have the right to react to a result however they want,” Elhamed said.

“That’s what happens when you come to a club like Celtic, the supporters expect a lot from the players.

“We need to be professional and focus on the next game - as that’s the most important. We need to show our character and our mentality to send 60,000 fans home happy.

“We have looked very good since the start of the season and there have only been a couple of disappointments.

“We need to keep going this way and keep showing the same attitude and mentality.

“With Celtic, you switch between league and European games very quickly. But we are all professional and we need to deal with that. It’s about switching your mind and mentality.

“The games are not always the same, there are different stadiums and atmospheres all the time. But you always need to go and do your best and try to get three points.

“This is life at a big club. Every game is important and there are big goals.

“We want to win everything so when one game is finished, you need to focus on the next. Every game you play at Celtic is big.

“The intensity is a little bit different from Be’er Sheba. But that was also a big club in Israel, with many fans and big goals.

“For me, this was the right move at the right age. I had experience with Be’er Sheba in the Europa League, and I am very happy at Celtic.”

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What also comes with the territory at Celtic, of course, is competition for places. Neil Lennon’s long and drawn out pursuit of a right-back to replace the departing Mikael Lustig seemed to drag on for most of the summer, but by the end of the window, two had come along.

Moritz Bauer came in on loan from Stoke City with a view to getting regular football after falling out of favour at his parent club, and got the nod to start at Livingston last time out in the only change to the Celtic side from the win over Cluj three days prior.

Elhamed says though that he is thriving on having the Austrian breathing down his neck, and with 18 matches in a relentless run of fixtures across three competitions between now and the end of December, he might be rather pleased that he can be given a rest now and again.

It is something of a cliche to say that it is sometimes the attitude of the players who aren’t in the starting line-up that make a squad successful, but Elhamed fully buys into the sentiment behind that mantra.

“Competition in the squad is very important,” he said. “It gives you more motivation to play and show your best at all times.

“Moritz is a good player and a good guy. It is good to have a strong squad.

“Every player wants to play all the time, but you know that it’s not always possible. I need to take it in the right way if I don’t play and then show my attitude when I get back in.

“I missed two games before Cluj but then I was back in and tried to do my best and help the team win.”


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From the outside looking in, it would have to be assumed that Rangers managing to usurp Celtic at the top of the table as a result of the champions dropping points two weeks in succession on the road, would be something the players were left stewing on during the international break.

Elhamed says though that he has the blinkers on as he focuses on Celtic’s cause, rather than worrying about their rivals, who have sneaked up on the outside to nose in front in this early stage of the title race.

With just eight games gone and 30 still to play, and with the fact that both sides were level on points going into the winter break last season before Celtic eventually pulled clear to win the league by nine points, it is a wise philosophy for the Celtic players to maintain a sense of perspective over the current standings.

“I play for Celtic and I only want to focus on our games,” he said.

“I don’t want to compare us with another club, I just focus on Celtic.”

Meanwhile, Celtic supporters will find out today whether or not UEFA will close the entire Stadio Olimpico for next month’s visit to Rome to face Lazio.

The Italians have handed Celtic 9000 tickets for the Europa League clash, but fascist salutes made by fans in their ‘Curva Nord’ section could see them heavily sanctioned.