With six games left to play Celtic still lead Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premier League table by one point and Gordon Strachan is much more relaxed than he was at this stage of the campaign last year. Back then his Celtic side were second in the table and under huge pressure to win every single game, including two Glasgow derbies, whilst hoping that other teams would also take points from the Huns.
"It's always good to have your destiny in your own hands," said the Celtic boss. "We were down by a few points at this time last year so we must be reasonably pleased with what we're doing. You must relish the challenge of winning. We have to embrace the challenge of winning the championship and enjoy what other people call pressure and stress. We call it enjoyment."
The manager is also enjoying the recent SPFA nominations and Gary Caldwell's endorsement is particularly pleasing for him. Caldwell arrived on a Bosman from Hibernian back in 2006 and it's fair to say that the big defender took a wee while to settle in. In fact there were calls for Strachan to drop him permanently after some remarkably bad performances but the boss persevered and has been rewarded by seeing Caldwell blossom into Celtic's most consistent performer.
"It's absolutely terrific," the Celtic gaffer said. "Gary came to us for nothing and many people don't like it when players come for nothing because they assume nothing means bad but he has proved that is wrong. Nothing, with will, determination and character, can make a great player."
"Gary has been good since he has come here, full stop." said the manager, stretching the truth a little, "I just see game after game after great game with him. Scott Brown came for a little bit more and I'm sure there were one or two people scratching their heads because he didn't get to where they expected him to be after three or four games last year, and he is now a sensation. So it shows that patience in this game - which there is not much of - and belief can go a long way."
Caldwell and Brown are two of the Strachan's favourites but he's hoping that chief executive Peter Lawwell will manage to sort out deals for another two that he'd love to see remain at Celtic Park. The boss thinks that these two senior pros are a great example to the next generation of Celts. "We have got a lot of players who young men should look up to. Stephen McManus, Paul Hartley, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Nakamura. We have a lot of people who young men can look up to not only as footballers, but as good representatives of the club. Peter deals with contracts and I think Jan and Paul have been talking, which is good because both are favourites of mine."