Football/Soccer

Celtic's John Kennedy says 'best team' comments were 'twisted'

Celtic interim manager John Kennedy.
Ronnie Esplin, PA

Interim Celtic boss John Kennedy insists he has shown Rangers "full respect" after his comments drew reaction from Ibrox ahead of their Scottish Cup clash at Ibrox.

The newly-crowned Premiership champions are 20 points clear of the Hoops, are unbeaten in the league and have beaten Celtic twice already this season as the Glasgow giants prepare to meet in the fourth round.

Kennedy recently claimed "that on our day we are still the best team in the country", a claim that Gers defender Borna Barisic described as "disrespectful" and a " joke" with Light Blues boss Steven Gerrard saying: "I know the reality and the truth."

However, Kennedy moved to bring some clarity to his opinion.

"My take on it is, people make a story and a headline out of taking the comment out of context," said the former Celtic defender, who confirmed Polish striker Patryk Klimala is set to join New York Red Bulls.

"I was referring to us going into a cup game and on our day we can still be the best performing team in the country because we have that level in us.

"That is purely what it is. Several times in the last few weeks I have commented on Rangers thoroughly deserving to win the league because they have been the most consistent team, they have racked up the most points, so I have shown full respect to Rangers for what they have done.

"I am entitled to say that on any given day, especially going in to a cup tie against Rangers, I fancy us on our day to come out on top.

"People sometimes take a small part of that statement and twist it and turn it into what they want to suit their argument and that is careless for me.

"To bring a bit of clarity to that, Rangers deserved to be the champions this season because they have been more consistent than us, but come a cup game, if we hit top gear and we can perform well, I fancy us to be able to go and win the game."

Klimala has been no more than a bit part player at Celtic since signing from Jagiellonia Bia?ystok in January, 2020 for a reported fee of £3.5million.

Kennedy said: "Patryk is close to finalising a deal to go there. It is an opportunity that come up for him and for both parties it was a good deal."

Kennedy also revealed that James Forrest was still racing against time to be fit for Sunday.

The Scotland winger has recently returned from a lengthy spell on the sidelines following ankle surgery.

In his first Premiership start since September, he 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: "He has come on reasonably well in the week. We got a bit of work into him yesterday (Thursday), it was more of a down day today to recover, and we will have a go at him again tomorrow.

"It will be a very late call but with the position we are in and the magnitude of the game we will give it as long as we possibly can and make a decision late. We are hopeful, we will keep our fingers crossed."

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Football/Soccer