Hartson believes standards at Celtic and Rangers have fallen

Former Celtic striker says recent results prove quality of Old Firm has dipped
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The Independent Football

John Hartson believes the recent shock defeats of both Old Firm clubs proves that the standards at Celtic and Rangers have dropped.

Tony Mowbray's nine-month tenure as Parkhead manager came to an end last week following the Hoops' 4-0 Clydesdale Bank Premier League defeat at St Mirren, Celtic's biggest loss to the Buddies in 51 years.

There were more records broken on Tuesday night at McDiarmid Park as St Johnstone's 4-1 win over Rangers represented the Saints' biggest win over the Ibrox men, who nevertheless remain 10 points clear of their Parkhead rivals at the top of the table.

The former Celtic striker Hartson played under Martin O'Neill at Parkhead between 2001 and 2005 and alongside top players like Stiliyan Petrov, Henrik Larsson and Chris Sutton.

The Welshman, continuing his recovery from cancer, was back in Glasgow yesterday to launch a new business venture but his part-time media work allowed him to make unfavourable comparisons.

"I hate to harp on about when I played and this, that and the other but I do feel that the standards have dropped," he told Press Association Sport.

"That's my opinion and people may differ from that but the proof is there. Rangers going down 4-1 to St Johnstone has never been heard of.

"Celtic losing 4-0 to St Mirren was arguably one of the worst results in their history. You could say that about Rangers [against St Johnstone] as well but one thing that you could say about that game is that Rangers might have taken their foot off the gas a bit because they could afford to lose five out of their last seven games or whatever it is and still win the league.

"Whether the Rangers players got sloppy on Tuesday night I don't know. But in Celtic's case they just lost too many games and dropped far too many points.

"Not to be challenging at this stage and to have gone out of the League Cup and to have gone out of Europe so early, I'm sure Tony half-expected the call when it came. You can't afford to lose that many games."

Neil Lennon was installed as interim manager at Parkhead following the departure of Mowbray and the Welshman was delighted that his former team-mate started off with a convincing 3-1 win over Kilmarnock at the weekend.

"I think it's Neil's job to lose now," he said. "It didn't work out for Tony although I thought it was a match made in heaven, I thought he was perfect for the job. But if a manager comes in and settles things down and starts winning big football matches and trophies then it is his to lose. Players can only get experience by playing and it's the same with a manager.

"How is Neil going to get experience if he is not given a chance? I know people will say that it is a massive club but he knows the club, he played there for seven years and under two great managers.

"Mark Hughes took over the Welsh national team when he was 37. That was his first job. Look at what he has done since with Blackburn and Manchester City and he is quite sought after. So at the end of the day, the only way you get experience is by being given the chance."