Hartley is living his hooped dream

Last updated : 02 January 2009 By Mikbhoy
Hartley and his Celtic team-mates ended a Championship winning year perfectly with a league victory at the home of their city rivals Rangers in a game which saw the meek Ibrox side put firmly into second place seven points behind the champions and the midfielder is loving every minute of it "It's been a very good year for me," he said. "I've played a lot of games, I don't know how many when you add in the Scotland matches, but it's been enjoyable. There have been a lot of highs and winning the league was incredible. It was the last game of the season and an unbelievable way to finish the season. That was an emotional night for all of us."

Paul had almost given up on his boyhood ambition to play for Celtic and he had played with Hamilton Accies, Millwall, St Johnstone and Hearts before the call finally arrived from Celtic Park. Having taken so long to don the hoops in earnest he is relishing every single moment. "We've had a lot of success and long may it continue. I'm enjoying every minute of being a Celtic player and I'm determined to savour all the big occasions. Games like Saturday's at Ibrox make all the hard work worthwhile."

Tomorrow will see Hartley come face to face with the manager who really helped take his career to another level. Although Dundee United manager Craig Levein refuses to take any credit for the Celtic midfielder's rise to the top. Levein took Hartley to Hearts from St Johnstone in 2003 and the player went from Division One player to Scottish international under his tutelage. "Paul is a great lad and I've been delighted to see him do so well in his career." said Levein "I think he's the classic example of a player who reached a certain age, the penny dropped and he's really kicked on. I wouldn't say he was going nowhere before he came to Hearts but he was certainly underachieving.

"He was a good player at a lower level, but it seemed to me as if he was doing just enough to get by and was not really pushing himself as hard as he could." continued the Dundee United boss "But, a bit like Barry Robson as well, things just seemed to click in his head and from that point on he really went for it. It happens a lot with players, they get to their late 20s and realise they've not fulfilled their maximum potential. I think that's what happened with Paul. He really started pushing himself hard later on in his career and because of that became the quality player he is today. It's great to see him, and Barry for that matter, doing well at Celtic - although that doesn't count this weekend."

Levein is looking forward to facing his former charges tomorrow when he takes his on-form United side to Celtic Park "I thought we were excellent against Falkirk last weekend and we'll need to keep that sort of form going at Parkhead if we're going to give ourselves a chance of winning." he said "We'll probably need to produce our best performance of the season if we're going to win the match. Celtic are on a high because of their win last weekend against Rangers, but we're in good form as well so the players have plenty of confidence. As ever, I can't say whether we're going to do it. But one thing's for sure, we'll go there all guns blazing and give it our best."