JOHN KENNEDY has played in a special Celtic team under Martin O’Neill, and has helped coach another under Brendan Rodgers. So, when he sees comparisons between those sides and the current iteration under Ange Postecoglou, he knows of what he speaks.

The Celtic assistant manager can sense the same hunger for victory within this group of players that he has experienced at various successful junctures in his playing and coaching career at the club, and he is hoping it is that determination that will see them lift the Viaplay Cup against Rangers on Sunday.

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“You can feel it when you are part of these things,” Kennedy said.

“You get a sense every day the team are on it and really hungry. They have a real intent and focus. I’ve seen that through all of those eras.

“I remember it in Brendan’s team. They had the bit between their teeth and a huge hunger to succeed and to continually succeed.

“We’ve got a group now who have had a small taste of success, in terms of what the club has achieved over the years.

“They’ve got a taste for it, and they are hungry for more. When you have that in a group it’s very strong.

“The manager uses it psychologically all the time. He’s very good on that side of things and motivating players.

“We certainly feel at the moment we are building towards something special. 

“But we can’t take our eyes off the ball.”

Not that the manager or even the players themselves would likely allow that. In fact, Kennedy also sees parallels between the on-field leadership in this team and the one he played in back in the mid-2000s, a squad that included the likes of Paul Lambert, Neil Lennon, Chris Sutton and John Hartson.

Having such strong characters on the field, he feels, has also helped facilitate the rapid transition into the team that many new arrivals have managed over the past year.

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“At that time the team was really strong, when you think about the players we had back then,” he said.

“For a young player coming in, it was easy to play with players of that calibre.

“We have it now to an extent. It’s a different era and different players with different personalities.

“But with young players coming in, they can look and learn at guys like Kyogo. The likes of Yuki (Kobayashi) can look at (Cameron) Carter-Vickers and (Carl) Starfelt.

“It’s different from the past but we have a good blend of experience and players with potential.”

Meanwhile, Kennedy has played down the chances of a repeat of a touchline bust-up between himself and Rangers manager Michael Beale at Hampden on Sunday, after the pair had a frank exchange of views when Beale was assistant to Steven Gerrard back in 2019.

Beale was dismissed in the game at Celtic Park by referee Kevin Clancy, but made a beeline for an unruffled Kennedy before eventually making his way up the tunnel.

“I’ve come across Michael a couple of times at various coaching things, we’ve crossed paths many times over the years,” he said.

“I’ve not spoken to him since he came back to Scotland. As I said, we’ve crossed paths doing badges and stuff, but we never really had any relationship outside that.

“I was only speaking to the referee back then, it wasn’t much to be honest.”