Efe Ambrose believes that not even Brendan Rodgers expected Celtic to set off on their record breaking run of 67 matches unbeaten when he took charge of the Glasgow outfit 18 months ago.
The Nigerian defender listened as his new boss listed his objectives, his priority being simply that they didn’t lose at home.
Although he has now moved on to Hibs, initially on loan, having fallen out of Rodgers’ plans, Ambrose naturally retains a fondness for a club for which he played for four years.
He remains firm friends with many of Rodgers’ players and, although that will be set aside for 90 minutes again tomorrow, he insisted that will remain the case even if Hibs were to become the first club to beat Celtic since St Johnstone did so in May 2016.
He said: “I enjoyed every bit of my time there, it gave me the platform to see and do things I never dreamed of. Celtic gave me the opportunity to do it. So they are still part of me and will always have a place in my heart.
“Everything about Celtic is something I cherish still. But that is something I keep in my house. Sometimes I like to be around them and support them, but the most important thing for me right now is Hibs.
“I focus on my game as a Hibs player and I am trying to help this club get to the highest place we can be in the league and try to achieve a cup.”
Ambrose admitted he has nothing but admiration for his former team-mates and their achievement, some noting the irony which would surround Hibs becoming the team to end the record given the close connections through him, boss Neil Lennon and former Celtic players Anthony Stokes and Dylan McGeouch, all now, of course, at Easter Road.
He said: “Records are meant to be broken and, if we break their run tomorrow, well, we will deserve it because I know it will not be easy. We can’t just walk on the pitch. We will have to earn it. We will have to work hard for it because playing against Celtic, in the kind of form they are in and where they are in the league, despite their form in Europe – which everyone knows is not good enough – they are still Celtic.
“For me, and for some time now for them, it is like a dream. They never expected this kind of winning streak and nobody thought they could do it. When Brendan Rodgers came in he sat down with the players and he discussed his objectives and the most important thing he said was that he wanted them to be unbeaten at home.
“He knew they could lose elsewhere, but he wanted them to make sure that they are never beaten at home and make sure they qualify for Europe. But we can all see what he is getting there now. Everything is working our for them and they are doing well.”
Week by week, the question has been who can end the “Invincibles” dominance, answered this time round by Ambrose, saying: “No-one can say when it’s going to end, we are just going to try and see what we can get out of the game.
“But the mentality is winning. We are playing at home with the fans [behind us] and we know this game is going to be important for us with Aberdeen and Rangers coming up next. In one week we are playing the three best clubs in the country. We know we can improve in the league and it can put us back in the league but the most important thing is to concentrate on Celtic.
“We know how dangerous they are, how they can keep possession, make teams run and chase, we know they can hurt teams.
“It’s not going to be an easy game, but Celtic will believe it is not going to be an easy game having played us twice already. We are going to compete, we are going to fight, so they know they need to come all out and be at their best.”