Peter Grant knows better than most the significance of an Old Firm derby.
He played in dozens of them as a dyed-in-wool Celtic fan who got the chance to wear the Hoops.
A decade and a half, between 1982 and 1997, left him in no doubt that for most of Glasgow they are the be all and end all.
But at the age of 55, and having carved a successful coaching and management career after hanging up his boots, Grant now knows that isn’t quite the case.
Not when someone’s health is at risk.
Which is why Grant, now managing Alloa, knows Neil Lennon’s first thought when he heard that Odsonne Edouard had tested positive for Covid-19 wasn’t that his star striker would be a doubt for the Old Firm showdown at Celtic Park on October 17.
No, Grant is convinced Lennon would have been worried sick about the wellbeing of the 22-year-old, who was on France Under-21 duty when the bomb-shell test result came through.
That said, former Scotland assistant boss Grant, believes if the young Frenchman shows no symptoms and emerges from self-isolation feeling fine, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t line up against Rangers.
He said: “The whole club’s initial reaction will be of concern for the boy’s wellbeing ahead of anything else.
“He’s a human being before he’s a footballer and the first instinct is to hope he’s okay and to do anything you can to help him, if he needs it.
“I’m sure the club is in touch with his family and will be going through all the data protocols to make sure everything is as right it can be.
“Neil will only be interested in the boy’s wellbeing, 100 per cent. There is absolutely no doubt about that. That would have been his first thought when he got the phone call on Tuesday night.
“But if he is allowed to go back into training on the Thursday before the Rangers match, there is no doubt in my mind he would be available.
“If he’s in good health Neil will want him to play. He is such an important player for him in these big games.
“It won’t be a case of Neil forcing him to play or putting him under pressure but if Edouard is feeling fine, why wouldn’t he play, even if he’s only back in training for a day or two?”
Grant isn’t party to Edouard’s condition, of course, but knows that many people who test positive don’t have symptoms.
If that is the case, the Alloa boss doesn’t believe his period in quarantine will have affected his fitness levels. He said: “The big thing with this virus, of course, is that you can have it but you
don’t feel any symptoms at all. We don’t know if that’s the case with Edouard.
“The boy might be sitting in self-isolation thinking: ‘If I hadn’t done the test, I wouldn’t have known I had it’.
“If he doesn’t have any symptoms and is feeling well I’m sure he can maintain his fitness at home when he’s self-isolating. He will be in constant touch via Zoom calls with Celtic’s physios, medical staff, fitness coaches and sports science people.
“He can’t go outside but if he isn’t ill, he will still be able to maintain his fitness.
“Celtic will get stuff to him if he doesn’t already have it. There will be a static bike, weights and all that kind of thing, like they were all doing during lockdown. Bayern Munich were a prime example – they all came back like bodybuilders!
“And with the amount of games Celtic have had already this season he won’t have lost too much match-sharpness by the time he is able to play again.
“Players play through knocks or with heavy colds all the time. Obviously this is far more serious if he’s feeling ill but I’ve spoken to people who’ve had it and they say they did not feel anything.
“So Neil will have a lot of talks with the boy and his medical staff about how he feels about playing in the next game if he’s showing no effects and obviously is out of the stage where he can pass it on to anyone else.
“Everybody will make a big thing of it because Rangers is the next match. If they were playing someone else, there wouldn’t be the same interest, although there would still be some because he is a high-profile footballer.
“But if I were manager of Celtic and he was available to come back to training next Thursday, with the Old Firm game coming up on the Saturday, he would be selected.”
Grant believes Lennon will be delighted to have got through the transfer window with his squad intact, given that there was serious interest in players like Edouard, Kris Ajer, Olivier Ntcham and Ryan Christie.
He believes that is a sign that their work is being noticed and reckons that they’d cut it down south without a problem if they ever do move on.
“Celtic have always had to put up with speculation and interest in their best players,” he said. “It happened with Moussa Dembele and in this transfer window, it was Edouard.
“If you are the manager you want to keep them so Neil will be delighted that the window is shut and he has kept Edouard and all of his top players.
“In a way he’ll be happy that there has been so much interest in his players. It proves they are doing well for Celtic.
“And there’s no doubt they could play in England or elsewhere – it’s been shown that they can move on from Celtic and be a success, which knocks on the head the theory that they are only good players because they play in Scotland.
“Even boys who have been released from the Old Firm, like John Fleck for instance, has proved you can still go down south and be a big success.
“People would have thought that he didn’t make it at Rangers so he had no chance but he’s doing great in the Premier League with Sheffield United.
“Players can handle going from Scotland to England. I was down there for 23 years and outside Manchester United there is more pressure on Celtic and Rangers than with any other club down there.
“It was only after I left that I realised how difficult it was to play for the Old Firm because of the intensity of it.
“So, if you do well in that environment, you’ll do well in England. Neil will know his players have flourished under the pressure and that’s why other clubs are looking at them.
“He will be wanting other managers looking at all players and wishing they had them.
“It means they are doing well for Celtic but it is fantastic for him that he kept them through the window, and none more so than Edouard.
“Now he just has to hope that the boy is healthy. And if he is, I think he’ll play.”
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