Brendan Rodgers railed against the negative narrative around Celtic and him after reaching the quarter-finals of the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup with a 2-0 win over St Mirren.
Despite sitting three points clear of Old Firm rivals Rangers at the top of the cinch Premiership, the Parkhead boss has come under fire for the Hoops’ style of play this season and also for his recruitment.
The holders were shorn of defenders Alistair Johnston, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Greg Taylor through injury but Japanese duo Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda netted against a spirited home side to earn a home quarter-final tie against Livingston.
Rodgers, who returned to Celtic Park for a second spell in the summer following the departure of Ange Postecoglou to Tottenham, noted that it is now eight wins and a draw in nine games for the Hoops – difficult to construe as any sort of a crisis.
He said: “It’s obviously (a narrative that’s) been created outside.
“But I don’t expect anything less to be honest. We just focus on ourselves.
“We are a winning club. When you’ve won consistently over a number of years, people will look to jump on you and bring us down – and bring me down.
“I am here to win. For sure we will have our day, and have many days going forward.
“We’ll get our influential players back and the squad will be very strong to the end of the season. We’ll continue to fight.
“We just have to prove a point to ourselves and our supporters. I think that’s always the best attitude. You are always looking to prove a point.
“It’s a part of the world where there is a lot of noise – and this year in particular when it (Celtic’s play) maybe hasn’t been as fluent.
“We get compared to the squad of last season but one, it’s not the same squad as last season, and two, a lot of those players who were starting last season have not been playing all of this season.
“But it hasn’t stopped the negativity.
“But I use it in a different way and look logically at it. We’ve missed some important players for long periods and we made some changes in the summer.
“This is a young group of players here who are giving everything, who are looking to develop and improve. If they keep doing that we’ll keep winning games.”
On Israel winger Liel Abada’s omission from the squad altogether, Rodgers said: “He wasn’t in a right frame of mind.
“I’ve spoke a lot to Liel and it has been a challenging time for him. I just felt when he came into the game (at Hibernian) the other night, it just wasn’t him.
“So we gave him this chance to have a few days and clear his mind. I’ll have a chat with him again next week, see where he’s at.”
Johnston picked up a head injury in the midweek win over Hibs and Rodgers said: “We’re just waiting to see again on him.
“A slight fracture on the side. The thinking is we’ll have a look in 10 days to see where he’s at.
“But it could be 10 days to four weeks. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
St Mirren boss Stephen Robinson was both “proud” and “frustrated” about his side’s performance as they exited the cup.
He said: “I’m proud of them, but frustrated at the same time because we had chances and we weren’t clinical enough
“There has to be credit given to Celtic for the two chances they take, they are clinical, and they defended very, very well in their box.
“There were two or three blocks that were fantastic, and ultimately they were better in both 18-yard boxes.
“So, for all the stuff we did in between, they deserved to win the game.”