Consistency is the key

09 April 2011 01:16
This is not the time to relax when there is so much to achieve Kris Commons is looking to his teammates to deliver a high degree of consistency over the next nine games if they are to lift the SPL title and Scottish Cup. Shaun Maloney is due to return to a nearly-full squad following a four-month lay-off as Neil Lennon is keen for his men to extend their two-point lead over Ranger when they act as hosts to St Mirren today. Celtic are odds-on favourites to regain the SPL trophy with every leading bookmaker given the relative depths of the Old Firm playing pools.Rangers could only name five substitutes for the game against Dundee United last week while the likes of Paddy McCourt and Niall McGinn could not find a place on the home bench when Celtic beat Hibs 3-1 on Wednesday. Celtic's first-half display was among their most impressive of the season as they showed that they had got over the 2-1 loss to Rangers in the Co-operative Insurance Cup final. The loss showed Commons and others they need to work hard to meet high expectations.The Scotland winger said: "I think on our day we're a good outfit but there have certainly been performances this year that have warranted the gaffer giving us a roasting, the Motherwell game comes to mind. It's important we keep our levels high and keep ticking over, especially at this stage of the season. Our main goal is the league and a lot of players didn't turn up at the cup final, so that kind of kicks you up the backside to get your mind in gear. That's the type of motivation we perhaps needed to seal the deal in the championship, that it's not all going to be rosy. We went into the cup final as favourites and came out pretty much battered and bruised and beaten." Commons was replaced by James Forrest in the starting line-up on Wednesday against Hibs after failing to match his impressive displays since moving from Derby in January against Rangers at Hampden. And he knows there are other players waiting to come in for anyone who fails to perform. Commons said: "I was a little disappointed not to be involved but we have got a big squad, a good squad, and players are coming back from injury. With a lot of games coming up hopefully it was more of a resting rather than a performance thing. Shaun Maloney is just coming back, little James has found some decent form, competition in wide areas is strong so it will certainly keep us on our toes. Niall McGinn and Paddy McCourt were not even on the bench. Both are great players itching to get involved." Assistant manager Johan Mjallby is optimistic that the improving condition of their squad can help them reach their peak in the run-in. The Swede said: "That's the dream scenario and I hope so. It's a luxury that way, even if it's a big player for us, if we see someone is tired and not really, really performing, we have a good chance to change things and you know you have a good player knocking on the door. So it helps now when we have more or less everyone fit and healthy and raring to go. It's only Daniel (Majstorovic) now and Andreas Hinkel who are not in the squad. This competition is going to be good for us in the run-in because if you don't perform, someone else is going to be knocking on the door. Hopefully the players will raise their game with that competition." When asked if plans were being made to add to that competition for next season, Mjallby said, half-jokingly, "I don't know, I don't know if we will be here. Of course, it's important we bring in the right people because we probably don't have the same money as we had when I was a player, so you need to be a bit more clever when it comes to new signings. I think this is a very good squad but when you are in this job working in management you always want to get even better players coming in and you need to strengthen the squad, especially if you look towards Europe. This is a very good crop of players but you always want more." When pressed on his comment regarding the management team's future, Mjallby admitted he did not expect talks over the contracts of himself and Lennon before the end of the season. He said: "We are in the same situation we were in at the start of the season. Nothing has really changed. We are trying to win the league and right now we are in pole position. I think it's more important to focus on the team, the players and the game itself."