Celtic are 'better than last season' insists Boruc ahead of crucial derby

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The Independent Football

The Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc has cranked up the pressure ahead of Saturday's Old Firm match at Ibrox by claiming his side have improved since they won last season's Scottish Premier League title.

Rangers are three points ahead at the top of the table with a game in hand and most pundits predict that a win on Saturday would effectively bring the title back to Ibrox for the first time in three seasons.

The Celtic manager, Gordon Strachan, and his players have come in for criticism recently after letting Rangers move clear at the top. However, Boruc, who was reported yesterday as saying he could leave Parkhead in the summer, praised his team-mates' efforts this season and expressed high hopes for the future of the club.

"We have taken a lot of criticism recently, but I think that this team is an even better team than the one which won the title last season," Boruc said. "I honestly believe that. I think that our overall play this season has been really good, there have been some very good matches, but the main thing about football is winning the games."

Boruc, who arrived from Legia Warsaw in 2005, admits he is still surprised by the fervour surrounding the Old Firm fixture. "I am the same no matter who I am playing," the goalkeeper said. "I don't do anything differently, or change any of my habits.

"But what surprised me is the build-up in the media, the number of people who are talking about the game. It was pretty shocking when I first came over here and I didn't expect there to be much interest.

"There was quite a lot of interest in some of the games that I played for Legia in Poland but nothing like you see before a derby here."

Meanwhile, the former Celtic striker John Hartson revealed that he immediately rebuffed Sir David Murray when the Rangers owner tried to entice him to Ibrox 15 months ago.

The Welshman failed a medical at Rangers when Dick Advocaat was manager and he subsequently signed for Celtic where he became a fans' favourite under Martin O'Neill.

But during Paul Le Guen's ill-fated tenure at Ibrox, Murray tried to persuade Hartson to leave West Bromwich Albion and return to Glasgow.

However, the former Wales international claims Murray's phone call was a waste of time. "There was no way that I could ever pull on a Rangers shirt after all that I achieved in five years at Celtic," Hartson said. "Mr Murray tried to convince me it would work but it was a no-brainer as far as I was concerned.

"There are two clubs in the world that I could never contemplate playing for now – Cardiff City and Rangers. Mr Murray could have offered to pay me £1m per week and I would still have said no. I didn't hear from him again and that suited me fine."