IT wasn’t quite the Tunnock’s teacake that Leigh Griffiths was once spotted tucking into on the Firhill bench. 

But so confident was Nir Bitton that his services wouldn’t be required on Sunday that the Israeli international was halfway through a fruit salad when Jeremie Frimpong blotted his copybook in the second half at Hampden and Neil Lennon looked his way for the resultant reshuffle.

What transpired in the next 30 minutes must have been the cherry on top, as the 28-year-old casually climbed amid the maelstrom, more than playing his part in what was Celtic’s most comfortable period of the match, even if they only had 10 men.
Make that 14 major titles and counting for a versatile and underrated footballer who kept Alfredo Morelos quiet for the remainder of the match whilst Kristoffer Ajer went out to right back to turn his attentions to Ryan Kent. 

No wonder Neil Lennon let slip a fortnight ago that he is keeping him at Parkhead longer than this summer, when his current deal is set to expire.

“I was eating my fruit salad so no I wasn’t ready to come on!” said Bitton. 

“Obviously, as a defender, you don’t expect to get on unless something happens. The manager had been telling Odsonne [Edouard, who had just come on] and Olivier [Ntcham] to warm up.

“So I was completely relaxed,” he added. “Then Jeremie did something foolish and this is the game. You always have to be ready. It was the longest 25 minutes I’ve ever played. But it was great.

“You have these games when as soon as you get on you feel comfortable, and I felt pretty good.

“It’s great to win these kind of games, when you don’t play so good but still walk away with the trophy. It’s the best feeling.”
It is a squad game these days and Bitton plays his part, but ask any player at any level and they will tell you how much more a title win means when you can help them get over the line. 

For Bitton, the sensation was magnified by the fact he spent almost a year sidelined with a career-threatening knee injury. 
Having won his way back into the Israeli line-up, it won’t be long until Scotland are at Hampden, tasked with finding a way past him in the Euro 2020 play-offs.

“I think you do appreciate these moments,” said Bitton. “I’ve been out for too long and I can’t lie, it hurt me when I saw the team out celebrating all these trophies.

“You always fear the worst when you suffer these kinds of injuries.

“There was a moment when I was down and saying to myself my career could be finished.

“You need to spend time with your kids, your family and friends to learn to appreciate every moment.

“But they drove me on and played a big part in my coming back. Sunday was the reward.

“It’s the best feeling to win trophies –and against your biggest rival.

“I cherish this one and just want to continue winning medals with this club.

“I can’t even remember how many that is I have now – but it’s a lot. I think it’s maybe 13 or 14, so it’s not bad!

“But you never tire of winning. You always want more. 

“It’s especially sweet when the odds are against us and everyone wants us to fail.”

Sure, Bitton would want to play more. But 23 appearances by the start of December is nothing to be sniffed at, even if Ajer and cup final goal hero Christopher Jullien are a tough nut to crack in those central defence berths. 

With Celtic already secure in their last 32 Europa League slot, tomorrow night’s encounter with Cluj could be a chance for Neil Lennon to showcase a few fringe members of his squad. Bitton would love the chance to take a starring role.

“I felt I started the season well and then got injured against Rangers in August,” the 28-year-old said. 

“I was out for five weeks but when I got back the team was winning and playing well, so it was difficult to get in to the side.

“As a sub you need to be ready if someone gets injured or sent off, and that’s what I've been doing.

“We have already qualified in first place so it’s a good game for us and maybe a chance for some players who haven’t played many games lately,” he added.

“It could be a good opportunity but it’s still a game we want to win. We want to finish the group on a high and take it in to the last 32. Hopefully we will do it.”

As for that new contract, the wheels could be in motion, although Bitton was keeping his cards close-ish to his chest in the aftermath of that BetFred Cup win.

“It’s something you need to ask Peter Lawwell instead of me!” he said. “But I love this club and I want to stay. 

“I am settled here and my kids live here, so we will see.”