SIX wins out of seven, one draw, and one point of the top of the league with a game in hand. But the perception is that Celtic have really to hit their straps this season.

That isn’t just the opinion of a section of the Celtic support who have perhaps become spoiled because of the slick football that has accompanied their trophy successes over the past few years, or the nit-picking of an over-critical press. It is a theory that is shared within the Celtic dressing room itself.

Captain Scott Brown knows that the performances over the last week or so against Ross County, St Mirren and Livingston weren’t quite up to the standard that they themselves, or manager Neil Lennon, would like.

The most important thing for Brown though is that maximum points were posted regardless. Performances, he insists, are sure to follow.

“I don’t think we’ve hit top gear yet,” Brown said. “Sometimes you have to grind these games out and just get the results.

‘You don’t worry about the performances at the end of the season – not if you’ve won the league. It’s all about points on the board, obviously.

“But we want to play better. We want to make sure we control games from start to finish a lot better. We don’t want to be defending a 3-2 lead for the last 15 minutes every week.

"Everyone has to understand that you won't always be at your 100 per cent best. There are times when the level will slip.

"The team changes, some people might get rested, but it's just about winning the games at the end of the day.

"Sometimes you just have to grind out the wins and get the results, especially away from home.

"There are times when you are under the cosh a bit but that's when you need to be focused and well drilled in your formation.

"You need to be at it defensively and in attack but that's what the manager thinks of us.

"He demands those high standards.”

Those standards may not have quite been as high as usual in terms of performance over the last few games, but the league position Celtic find themselves in is now almost as high as they expect it to be after playing catch-up on the fixtures they missed due to Boli Bolingoli’s breach of Covid-19 protocols.

“We’re delighted to be back up there,” Brown said. “We always had to take it just one game at a time.

“There was nothing we could do about the two games we missed as a team. But we’ve managed to win them, beating St Mirren in a hard game – and getting another good result at the weekend. Another three points against Livingston.

“I think there is a lot of pressure on us all the time. People just expect us to win every single game.

“But it’s always hard work and we’ve done extremely well, especially against Livingston at the weekend there.

“You go a goal down two games in a row but the fighting spirit we showed to come back, to create that gap between us and Livingston and make it 3-1 was great.

“They then scored a great goal, to be perfectly honest, to make it 3-2. But I thought we did really well – because it’s about the fighting spirit of these lads.

“We never give up, we always try. And we try to improve week by week, because the manager wants that from us.”

Brown was speaking as he promoted the release of ‘The Official Story of Nine In A Row’, a book documenting the run that has left Celtic on the cusp of history. Brown has lifted all nine of those Premiership trophies, and he has pinpointed the thread that has run through all of those teams, one he believes the current squad also possesses.

"The biggest factor in our success has been the winning mentality and never say die attitude,” he said.

"It's not always been plain sailing. You are going to get hard games and tough periods.

"There will be defeats here and there but it's about how you bounce back in the next game.

"You can't worry too much about one result. You need to focus on the whole season.

"For us, we just concentrate on ourselves. We don't worry about anyone else.

"We aim to get success here every year and push the boundaries all the times, whether it's pushing current players or bringing in others.

"The manager has brought in a lot of players and there have been changes in the team and formation.

"So, it's been great that we have been able to keep winning matches at the same time."