ANGE Postecoglou tonight admitted the winter break had allowed him to get players back to full fitness and his new signings up to speed quickly – but dismissed suggestions it had been moved forward to benefit Celtic.

The SPFL board last month decided to change the dates of the shutdown after the Scottish government increased Covid-19 restrictions and capped crowds at outdoor events at 500 for a three week period.

Top flight football in this country was meant to finish early in the New Year – after the second Old Firm match of the 2021/22 campaign on January 2 – but play was stopped following the Boxing Day fixtures instead.

The move, taken after 10 of the 12 cinch Premiership clubs backed it, was vindicated when protocols were relaxed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last week and a capacity crowd turned up at Celtic Park for the visit of Hibernian this evening.

Postecoglou, whose team defeated Hibs 2-0 to move to within three points of their city rivals at the top of the table, fielded James Forrest, Giorgios Giakoumakis and Jota, three players who had been sidelined last month, in the 2-0 triumph.

He also started new Japanese signings Daizen Maeda and Reo Hatate and brought on their countryman Yosuke Ideguchi.

But the Greek-Australian coach has not been impressed by suggestions the break was moved to allow Celtic to get players fit and make new signings during the January transfer window. “Well, the break would have happened, there would have been a break,” he said. “What’s the commentary around they designed this break just for us?

“There was a break in Scottish football wasn’t there? It was as beneficial for every other club. We are in the same boat.

“I guess for us what was important is that we got people in, especially our new players, early, which allowed us to have 10 days good training with the lads and the rest of the boys and show them the way we train and get some work into some guys, Jota, James Forrest, Giakoumakis, who have been injured in the first half of the year.

“We gave them a base to tackle what we need to. Obviously the games come thick and fast now and we are going to need a squad to tackle that. It was good that we got all three new players on today.”