John Kennedy will ensure Celtic are ready for possible shoot-out against Rangers

Celtic will be ready if Ibrox cup tie goes to penalties, says interim manager John Kennedy (PA Wire)
15:15pm, Thu 15 Apr 2021
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John Kennedy will ensure Celtic are ready if Sunday’s Scottish Cup tie against Rangers at Ibrox goes all the way to a penalty shoot-out.

The fourth-round encounter between the Old Firm rivals in Govan will be played to a finish on the day.

The Hoops won the competition for a record fourth-successive time with a 4-3 shoot-out win over Hearts in the delayed 2020 final at Hampden Park last December, following 120 dramatic minutes of football which ended 3-3.

However, Celtic lost 5-4 on penalties to the Light Blues in the semi-final of the cup at the national stadium in 2016 after a pulsating match had finished 2-2 after extra time.

Interim boss Kennedy, who will give winger James Forrest up until the last minute to prove he is fit for Sunday, was asked in a Celtic TV interview if the squad would be practising spot-kicks in the build-up.

He said: “We always do. We make sure we don’t miss anything out.

“Certainly we hope it doesn’t get to that point, we would like to go and win the game in 90 minutes but you have to prepare for everything.

“Certainly at some point in the week we will take that into account.”

Forrest has recently returned from a lengthy spell on the sidelines following ankle surgery.

In his first Premiership start since September, the Scotland winger scored against Livingston at Parkhead on Saturday with his second goal in two games but came off just before the hour mark in the 6-0 win with a back and hamstring niggle.

Kennedy said: “We will monitor James as the week progresses.

“He is probably the type of player we will give right to the last minute.

“We will see how he goes during the week, we will get treatment into him and we will progress that as best we can and make a decision nearer the game.”

Kennedy was “delighted” to see Stephen Welsh this week sign a new four-year contract that will see him remain at Parkhead until at least the summer of 2025.

The 21-year-old defender, a product of the club’s youth academy, made his first-team debut last season in a 4-1 Premiership win at Hamilton in February 2020 but has established himself as a regular in recent months.

Former Celtic centre-back Kennedy said: “I have known him a long time, I have seen him being a young player at the academy and progress through.

“He has a terrific attitude, a real will to learn and work and it is no surprise he has gone in and done well.

“He has made himself a very important player for us which is a big benefit to us and he wants to commit his future to the club, which is good news for all.

“He deserves it. Again, you need a break at times and he has had a couple of opportunities but he has merited it.

“Everybody’s path is different as a young player. They are all so eager to do well and get in as quickly as they possibly can, but you also have to trust the process and sometimes it comes sooner, depending on your development, other times you have to be patient.

“Stephen is certainly one of those who have had to be patient but when the opportunity has come he has certainly taken it with both hands.”

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