Sky Sports' Andy Walker: "You could go through the squad and make a case for so many players who all played a key part in helping Celtic win the title under Ange Postecoglou. If I had to narrow it down to five, I'd pick Cameron Carter-Vickers, Jota, Reo Hatate, Kyogo and Callum McGregor"
Wednesday 11 May 2022 22:46, UK
Celtic have reclaimed top spot in Scotland by winning the Scottish Premiership from Rangers, but who were the key players in Ange Postecolgou's side?
We tasked former Celtic striker Andy Walker with the job of picking out five key players from the title-winning team, and it proved to be a tricky challenge.
"I have to say when Postecoglou was appointed last June, I gave him next to no chance of beating Rangers to the title," Walker told Sky Sports.
"The squad was in desperate need of improvement in all areas and after finishing 25 points behind last season, I thought he would do well to reduce that gap to single figures.
"It's an astonishing turnaround and Postecoglou did it primarily through excellent recruitment and good coaching, aspects that were in short supply for Celtic last season.
"I've narrowed it down to five but so many others could have been on that list. For example, in Joe Hart Celtic finally have someone they clearly trust as the last time of defence and he has been great this season.
"Just in front of him thousands of Celtic fans did not see Anthony Ralston having a future at the club, but that quality coaching and belief of the manager has seen the full-back reach a level few thought he was capable of.
It's an astonishing turnaround and Postecoglou did it primarily through excellent recruitment and good coaching
"Tom Rogic had lost his way a bit, but under Postecoglou has a new belief in his ability and his goals at Tannadice and Ibrox stand out as the Aussie returned to his best. Matt O'Riley has shown he can be a very able replacement for Rogic too and has quickly adapted to the pace of Scottish football while Liel Abada has been another key signing for Celtic - contributing with key goals and assists.
"All these players, plus Daizen Maeda and Giorgos Giakoumakis have had great seasons and all had a case to be included in the top five - it has been a remarkable season."
However, Walker eventually narrowed down his selections, picking out his five key players as Celtic won the title...
The American has been a mainstay in the heart of a Celtic defence that never looked secure under previous signing Shane Duffy.
He is strong, commanding, reliable, calm on the ball and consistent. His leadership is the main reason Celtic have conceded very few goals from open play all season.
At the other end of the park, he has shown he can be a big threat too with some key goals including that one at Ibrox recently which was crucial in the context of that match but also the title race. If Celtic lost that game, then it could have been Rangers who went on to win the league.
Carter-Vickers was key that day and has been all season, he's a leader and I hope he stays at the club.
The bonus of guaranteed Champions League football will always help attract top players and knowing how special Parkhead is on a European night - I hope that inspires him to turn down interest from England and extend his stay at Celtic.
The winger is another player who Celtic will be keen to hold onto once his loan deal expires. Since arriving he's been great to watch.
Celtic missed his creativity and imagination when he was out for an extended period due to injury but when he's playing he can create goals and occasionally score too.
His numbers have been impressive and he's stepped up at key moments - none more so than in the final match against Rangers this season. He makes things happen and can play on the right or left, plus he's clearly enjoying his football so I hope he's here next season too.
The fee is a lot for any Scottish club but I think he is worth it and he's at an age where he could be a key asset for the club, if they can get him on a long-term deal.
In normal circumstances selecting a player who arrived in January might be questionable but that's not the case with this man. The timing of his arrival in January gave the club such a lift as it was so important Celtic did business in that transfer window and it worked.
His stunning strike against Hearts, followed by those two goals versus Rangers meant he settled immediately and the fans took to him straight away.
Finding players who are capable of not only scoring but unlocking defences with exceptional passing in the final third is difficult but Celtic have unearthed another quality player in Hatate.
There's also a common theme with all the arrivals from the J-League - they have a great humility about them which has been great to see.
Admittedly he has looked a bit weary at times but he'll very quickly adjust to the pace of the Scottish game and I am sure continue to grow as a player next season.
There's no doubt he's the club's main striker and Postecoglou clearly trusts him. Maeda and Giakoumakis have impressed - especially when Kyogo was injured - but the Japan striker has had a terrific season.
Postecoglou likes his work rate and he is a team player who has great movement plus that ability to not only create chances but also put them away too.
Some of his finishes this season have been fantastic, not just in the league en route to the title but also in the League Cup final - he makes it look so easy.
Kyogo is another player who will only continue to improve as time goes on - as long as he stays fit. And again, he's got the Champions League group stages to look forward to too - a stage everyone wants to play on.
He won the PFA Scotland Player of the Year award - the prize all footballers regard so highly. To be recognised by your peers is special and sums up the season McGregor has had.
He took over from a hugely successful Celtic captain in Scott Brown and has thrived in that role. Celtic looked to him for his leadership qualities and he's delivered. When 12 new faces joined in that first window, he was key in helping them settle as the squad adapted to Postecoglou's style.
On the pitch, the way he keeps the ball is great and when he's pulling the strings Celtic are a much better team. He knows what it takes to win big trophies and I'm sure he'll flourish as captain when those European nights come along next season.
Postecoglou made him captain and trusts him, he's a good influence on the squad and I am sure he will be relishing the challenge of helping Celtic retain this title next season.