Ledley seeks Christmas lift for Celtic's title hopes

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The Independent Football

Joe Ledley has targeted a clean sweep of wins over the festive season to keep Celtic's Scottish Premier League title ambitions on course.

Neil Lennon's side trail leaders Rangers by three points but get the chance to go level – for a couple of hours at least – by playing Hamilton in Saturday's lunchtime kick-off at New Douglas Park.

A rearranged fixture at Celtic Park against Kilmarnock next Tuesday is then followed by home games against St Johnstone and Motherwell before the Old Firm derby at Ibrox on 2 January. "The Christmas period is one of the most vital parts of the campaign and can make or break your season," the 23-year-old Celtic midfielder said. "There are always a lot of games in a short amount of time. We have games on 21 December, Boxing Day, 29 December and then on 2 January. You can get injuries and suspensions, while some teams might be missing key players.

"It's a vital part of the season and a chance to gain points on other teams.," Ledley added. "If we can get a 100 per cent record over the Christmas period it would be a great achievement. So it's massive. Obviously we all want to win the league so this is important for the rest of the season."

Virtually an ever-present in the Celtic midfield since his summer move from Cardiff, Ledley is hoping to keep injury-free for the second part of the season. "Last season I had an operation so I missed around eight to 10 weeks of games and was disappointed then," he said. "But I came back from that and have come back stronger and better, and I will just try to continue playing games week in, week out.

"I have managed to keep away from injuries so hopefully I can continue this to the end of the season. The only one I have missed was the St Mirren game and that was due to suspension which was obviously a disappointment."

The Rangers reserve team manager, Tommy Wilson, meanwhile, would love to see his players given the opportunity to play against senior Scottish Football League sides as part of a radical revamp of Scottish football.

Proposals for wide-ranging reform of the domestic game, including the possible introduction of a two-tier SPL, will be put to all twelve SPL clubs on Monday. As football in Scotland prepares for what could be a time of change, Wilson believes the authorities could do worse than follow the example of clubs like Barcelona, who have a B team playing in the second tier of Spanish professional football.

Asked if he would like to see a Rangers academy or B team playing in the lower divisions of Scottish football, he replied: "Absolutely. I've just come back from Barcelona and I spoke to the staff there. The Barça B team is fourth in the second division in Spain.

"The thing that they've got right there, that I hope we do, is that they have flexibility. A player from the B team can go up and play in the first team and a first-team player can come down and play in the B team. I had quite a good relationship with some of the Spanish coaches from my time at the Scottish Football Association and I got an invitation to go over there so I took it up.

"It's something we hope we can build on. I certainly learnt from my time there. There are lessons we can learn from Barcelona. To have so many players who have come through and been developed at their academy, that's why I took the opportunity to visit."

This season has seen several youngsters make the breakthrough to the Rangers first team, with Kyle Hutton and Darren Cole making their Champions League debuts against Manchester United and the Turkish champions Bursaspor, respectively, in recent weeks.

"In a country as small as ours it's always peaks and troughs," added Wilson. "It's not like a country like Spain who have so many million people and who always seem to be producing good teams.

"In our academy, we have very good years and then years when the quality is not quite as high. This is a vintage year. The talent can only flourish if given the opportunity and fortunately we've got a manager that is prepared to do that."