Football: Buoyant mood at Celtic

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CELTIC WERE hit by a tidal wave of optimism yesterday - both off and on the park.

Shares in the club soared in value as the Scottish title holders made their bow on the Official List. Away from the Stock Exchange, the players were taking stock of their display in the 0-0 draw against Rangers at Ibrox on Sunday.

The captain, Tom Boyd, believes they are in the mood to show they are worthy champions as Celtic face a crucial spell of three matches inside a week that could shape their season, starting with a home Premier League match against St Johnstone tomorrow.

"The manner in which the result was achieved against Rangers won't do us any harm," said Boyd. "All the boys showed how committed they were to the cause regardless of what injuries and problems we had going into the game. Once they stepped over the white line they all gave their best for the team."

Celtic went into the first Old Firm clash of the season in poor shape with a number of squad members needing treatment in the days leading up to the game. Boyd was one, having tweaked a hamstring during the 2-1 Uefa Cup victory against Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal in midweek.

"I didn't know I was going to make it until the day of the game," he said. "I did no running between Tuesday and Sunday. I felt I would be OK but it wasn't until Brian Scott [the Celtic physiotherpist] put me through my paces yesterday morning I knew I would be fit. I didn't encounter too many problems although the hamstring was tugging on me late in the game."

Paul Lambert is due to return tomorrow after missing the Rangers match through suspension and Jozef Venglos, the Celtic coach, believes he is spoiled for choice after being heartened by their display on Sunday. "I have to congratulate my players on their performance," he said. "It was an open game but they still maintained their tactical discipline and that was important."

Rangers face a punishing schedule of three games inside a week - but Colin Hendry could not be happier. The Scotland captain was recalled to the starting line-up against Celtic - and he admits he will be disappointed if he does not get the nod against Aberdeen at Pittodrie tomorrow.

Rangers follow that match with a visit to Dunfermline on Saturday, then they tackle Beitar Jerusalem in the second leg of the Uefa Cup next week.

Hendry missed the first game in Israel because of suspension and was left on the bench in three games prior to the tie. Dick Advocaat, the Rangers coach, decided to stick with the central defensive partnership of Craig Moore and Lorenzo Amoruso, leaving the former Blackburn player frustrated.

Hendry, however, believes he did enough to secure a place in the team for the visit to Aberdeen. "I will be disappointed if I am not picked, " he said. "I felt strong and I felt quick against Celtic. "I was happy and comfortable with my performance. I also know I can improve on it if I get a run of games.

"Aberdeen would be a bit of a special game for me as I was brought up not far from there. We have a few matches coming up in a short space of time but that is good news for me.

"I have no quarrel with a heavy programme for I have only had two or three games this season and they have been fairly sporadic. I feel as though it is still pre-season because I have had so few games."

It was Hendry's first taste of an Old Firm derby after his pounds 4m move from Ewood Park and he savoured the occasion. "I think you would struggle to get an atmosphere like that in England," he said. "Certainly I never experienced anything like it during my time at Blackburn."

Rangers could be without Andrei Kanchelskis tomorrow as he suffered a wrist injury against Celtic.