O'Dea has score to settle
Celtic defender Darren O'Dea is determined never to repeat the heartache of losing the Scottish Premier League title to Rangers. The Bhoys were overtaken in the title race with just three games remaining, and then finished the season with two goalless draws as the Gers completed the double.
Tony Mowbray has since replaced Gordon Strachan in charge, and O'Dea is convinced Celtic have the squad, the manager and the motivation to win back the SPL crown. "Our squad was stronger last year," he said.
"We only had ourselves to blame for not winning it. It is a horrible feeling and it is something I will never forget and something I never want to do again. We have a fresh start and there is nothing holding us back this year from going on to win the league."
O'Dea struggled to nail down a regular first-team berth under Strachan, and competition for places in the back four will heat up further if Celtic complete the signing of full-back Daniel Fox. But the Irishman has relished the chance of a fresh slate to press his selection claims with Mowbray at the helm.
Celtic face African champions Al Ahly in the inaugural Wembley Cup tonight and O'Dea said: "It has been great. It is a fresh start and everyone is looking to impress and these games are a great chance for everyone to show what they can do.
"There is a lot of competition in defence and there has been for the last few years. It is probably good there is a fresh slate for everyone and it is up to you to prove you deserve to be in his first XI."
Celtic are using the Wembley Cup to help fine-tune their preparations for the UEFA Champions League qualifier with Dinamo Moscow on 29 July. Mowbray is hoping to squeeze in a trip to the Russian capital in between their games this weekend.
"They are undoubtedly a quality football team with some very good players," he said. "They are very well organised and are 14 or 15 games into their season, so they are very fit. It's a big ask for us so early in our preparations."