There will be “hell to pay” if Celtic fail to return to winning ways following the much-criticised training camp in Dubai this week.

That is the view of former Rangers and Scotland manager Alex McLeish who, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, suggested the Bhoys have painted a target on their back by travelling to the Middle East amid the UK Coronavirus crisis.

The Hoops have come under heavy fire from all corners for the trip to the UAE during the pandemic, with photos of players and staff sat around the pool and in the hotel bar circulating social media.

The Hoops made the trip in the aftermath of their derby day defeat to Rangers, a result which has left Neil Lennon’s men trailing the league leaders by 19 points.

McLeish has admitted Celtic have invited pressure on themselves with their decision to travel and that they will have to hit the ground running on their return to league action if they are to silence the critics.

McLeish told Football Insider: “The players flying back by plane, maybe they had a couple beers early in the week but everybody, by the time they get back on that plane, need to be focused for the next game.

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“Celtic should be saying: ‘Guys, we’ve had massive publicity about us being away, we know if we don’t win this next game, there’ll be hell to pay.’

“They have to turn the target (on their backs) into something very positive and it’s as simple as that.

“If they win, okay, there may still be some mutterings but if they win, a lot of it will go away. If they lose, I think the criticism will pile up.” 

Celtic’s first game back sees them play host to Hibernian on Monday, 11 January, while they also face Livingston twice and Hamilton before the end of the month.

The Bhoys have three games in hand over Rangers, meaning they could still end up 10 points behind if the Light Blues keep up their imperious form.

In other news, Darren Bent claims the Hoops have pulled off a “masterstroke” amid Dubai trip.