Mjallby: Be strong like Joos, Bobo and I.

Last updated : 14 April 2009 By Mikbhoy

In recent away trips Celtic have dropped vital points at Motherwell, Dundee United and Hearts and ex-Celt Mjallby has warned the present incumbents that they need to show a bit more steel in their pursuit of a fourth successive League flag.

Solid bhoys - the formidable back line of Valgaeren, Balde and Mjallby

"I saw the results from the weekend and that Celtic drew after leading the game at Hearts." he said. "You really need to be solid at this time of the season because you just cannot afford to give anything away when the race for the title is so close. It seems that teams playing against Celtic at the moment feel as though they are not beaten even if they fall behind."

The Swedish defender was a big player in Martin O'Neill's all conquering Hoops side and together with Bobo Balde and Joos Valgaeren they formed an almost impenetrable defensive wall. "From my experience of playing at Celtic, we would always have to weather a storm at some point during an away game." Mjallby told the Daily Record. "In the first 30 minutes or so, you would find yourself under a bit of pressure. You need to be strong and give nothing away. We would be prepared to sit back, play deep and keep things tight. When we did manage to get the first goal, it disheartened teams and it was then up to us to make sure there was no way back."

"Anything an opponent got would not be given easily." continued the big defender. "We didn't really talk about it but we knew within our system that if we could get through the initial period and take the lead, we would be confident of seeing it through. Usually, we would go on and win the game. The key for us was to get in front and then we would control the tempo. We were able to slow things down and take the sting from opponents and the recent results suggest that is no longer happening."

"Perhaps the changes have had an effect on the team at stages of this season." said Johan. "Sometimes it has been Gary in midfield with Glenn playing at centre-back. Sometimes the two of them without Stephen. There have also been changes at left-back. About four players have been used there this season and that can turn out to be a big problem. I don't think you need to have the best defenders in the world if you have an understanding and work together as a unit."

"Look at the Arsenal team from their great days." he said. "You couldn't say any of them were world-class defenders but when they came together, Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon were incredible. They knew everything about their system and their job. If Adams stepped up, the other three were with him. I would not say we were as good as that unit but myself, Joos and Bobo knew exactly what we would be doing."

"If Bobo started going towards a header," he continued. "I would just go in behind him in the rare case he missed it. It became second nature to us and maybe that is missing a little bit at Celtic just now. It's strange. A few weeks ago, the problem at the club seemed to be around scoring goals - now it's at the other end! But you cannot forget that, despite everything, Celtic are still top with six games to go and Rangers would prefer to be in that position."

As the title race reaches it's climax Mjallby reckons that the Champions will be the team with the most formidable back line. "It's going to close." he said. "But I feel the winners will be the team who can be more solid. Celtic and Rangers have the players to get goals. Even if it is just one per game. It will be then down to the lads in defence to ensure clean sheets. That is what is going to be needed and both teams know that a slip-up could be fatal at this time. There will be a nervousness around both teams and it is down to who can handle it."