Greg Taylor doesn’t buy into any notion that Celtic ’s Euro exit helps on the domestic front.
But the left-back admits he’s hugely motivated to get back among the continent’s elite – and he’s fully aware that passage is only opened by Premiership success. Ange Postecoglo u’s team will have their final Group F evening in five days’ time when they face Real Madrid. A trip to the Bernabeu will be their last foreign adventure of the season with bottom spot sealed on matchday five.
Celtic are eliminated from the Champions League while the consolation door into the post-Christmas knockout rounds of the Europa League is blocked off as well. Focus now turns to retention of the title as well as making a bid for success in the League and Scottish Cups. Naturally an assumption takes hold among those outside Celtic’s camp that removing the rigours of European competition can ease the burden on Postecoglou’s players and boost their challenges at home.
But an ambitious Taylor doesn’t necessarily feel it makes much difference.
Asked if the Euro departure would help domestically, the 24-year-old said: “I don’t know if I would say a help because you just focus on the next game.
“They come around thick and fast. And we have a squad equipped to deal with it.
“Everyone wants to play and fighting on four fronts gives you opportunities to get those games, so it is disappointing.
“We wanted to be in Europe as long as we could, whether that be Champions League or Europa League, and we didn’t manage to stay in there. We have not quite got the results that we wanted to in the competition.
“But we aim to improve with each game and hopefully we’ll get another crack at it next year. It gives you the incentive to do it again.
“It is unbelievable, it improves you as a player. You feel as though you are getting better, albeit it is difficult to learn by not getting the results we want.
“But it does make you want it more. The Champions League is the best competition in the world but Sunday is now the big one. Livingston has been a tough place to go throughout the years and they will be wanting to get a result.”
His outlook speaks volumes for the already recognised hunger and drive present within Postecoglou’s squad.
The Champions League wasn’t viewed as an outing, a glamour gig. It was considered a chance to make an impact among the best, for Taylor and Co to test themselves to the limit. Results did not go the way the squad or manager wanted but the education has been vital.
And Taylor is adamant that desire remains high heading to Madrid next week even though qualification hopes are gone.
The defender said: “When you are at Celtic, there is always something to play for. There is pride. The fans will travel in their thousands – as they always do – so we want to go to the Bernabeu and put in a performance for them, first and foremost.
“You can argue it can be no tougher but this is the stage we have earned to play at.”
Celtic head to West Lothian in two days’ time determined to put Euro disappointment behind them against the Lions.
Taylor believes there is much to take and much to learn from the campaign, the latest match-day seeing Shaktar Donetsk leave Glasgow with a 1-1 draw.
He said: “I touched on it before the game that we didn’t want to come up short again in terms of result and we did that. I wouldn’t say we are more frustrated because any time you do not win a game at a club this size, you are disappointed.
“It was just as disappointing as any other result. But we can’t now progress in Europe and that is what we wanted to do. You can see that we are improving within the games, you can see we are getting more control. But we are just not quite there yet.
“I have said that after just about every interview I’ve done following the Champions League games that we are not quite there yet as a team and maybe lack a bit of experience.
“It’s the first time for a lot of us being exposed to this level and you see that if you give a team a sniff of a chance, they take it. We have come up short, ultimately, but the fans can see in our performance that we are not far away.
“A lot of the boys who are experiencing this for the first time, myself included, will be more equipped and ready to go if we get a second crack at it.
“You can see in the level of performance that we are not far away. We have handled these occasions, which are big ones. You can see 60,000 inside the stadium wanting success for the team and, of course, it does show we are not far away.”
Taylor has been one of the shining lights for Hoops boss Postecoglou during the Euro campaign with a string of top-level displays. Despite dipping into the group stage with the elite for a first time, the Scotland international has certainly shown his talents.
Taylor’s performances have led to observers suggesting he is playing the best football of his career.
But he said: “I’ll leave that to other people to decide. I just try to improve every day here.
“And I have a manager who believes in me with a philosophy I enjoy playing in.”