THE last time that Joey Barton mouthed off in public about his superiority to a Celtic player it did not end particularly well for him.

The enfant terrible of English football confidently predicted he would have little difficulty dealing with Scott Brown after he signed for newly-promoted Rangers on a free transfer from Burnley in the summer of 2016.

“People keep talking about Joey Barton v Scott Brown,” he said in an interview with talkSPORT before he arrived in Scotland. “He's not even in my league, he's nowhere near the level I am at. He can't get near me. If I play well, Brown does not stand a chance.”

The prospect of the two combative midfielders and larger-than-life personalities going head-to-head for the first time was a mouthwatering one for supporters of both Glasgow clubs as well as neutral observers.

It turned out, though, to be something of a non-event.

Celtic blew Rangers away in their opening Premiership encounter at Parkhead that September and Barton proved unable to lay a glove on Brown as the visitors were thrashed 5-1.

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You would have thought the former Manchester City, Newcastle United, Queens Park Rangers and Marseille player – who departed Govan not long after that humiliation following a training ground bust-up at Auchenhowie - would have learned an invaluable lesson from that chastening experience and would think twice before spouting off again.

The National: Alas, he has not. He took to X (formerly Twitter) on Wednesday night to slag off Greg Taylor after a clip of the rash red card challenge which the Celtic left back made on him in a league game at Rugby Park when he was starting out at Kilmarnock eight years ago was posted on the social media website.

He branded him a “d******d”, a “p***y” and a “f***y”. He then vowed the defender would “get a good slap if I ever run into him in the wild” and promised he would post a video of him doing so for his followers’ delectation.

It was true to form from an individual whose online output of late, particularly about women’s football, has been nothing short of vile.

Would Barton fare any better in a scrap with Taylor than he did in his one-sided tussle with Brown?

The smart money would be on the Scotland internationalist coming out on top in that particular square go. He stands up to whatever punishment is meted out to him at home or abroad. He always, too, get up off his stool when the bell goes for the start of the final round. Not infrequently, he delivers a knockout blow.

He never, unlike some high-profile acquisitions who have arrived in this country amid great fanfare, throws in the towel in derby games. He famously told Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos to “shut your hole fat boy” when the gravitationally challenged Colombian had a go at him at Ibrox in January last year. Fans now wear t-shirts with his words emblazoned across them.

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Left back has long been seen as something of a problem position for Celtic for some peculiar reason. Rumours always abound about a multi-million pound foreign signing who is set to be parachuted in to the berth whenever a transfer window is open. On occasion, they have been.

But Boli Bolingoli, who was bought from Rapid Vienna for £3m a couple of months before Taylor arrived in 2019, Diego Laxalt, who spent the second half of the 2021/22 campaign in the East End on loan from AC Milan, and Alexandro Bernabei, who joined from Lanus in his native Argentina in a £3.75m deal two years ago, all failed spectacularly.

The National: The 13-times capped 26-year-old has, in stark contrast to that trio, been a model of consistency. He may not be the footballer that his predecessor Kieran Tierney was. Very few in the modern game are. Still, he has many attributes and strengths and has been integral to the numerous domestic successes which Celtic have enjoyed in the past four seasons. He is very much their unsung hero.

His former manager Ange Postecoglou, who turned his old charge from a regular full-back into an inverted one during the two years that he spent in the dugout in Scotland, singled him out for special praise when he spoke at a Spurs pre-match press conference back in December as he looked back on his time here. “Greg was very influential,” he said.

The Greek-Australian coach had previously lauded the one-time Rangers youth for his positive attitude and adaptability.

“He really embraced the challenge,” he said. “The way we played was a little bit different, but he embraced that. He has got that appetite, that willingness to continually ask how he can improve.

“When the opposition were trying to stop our attacking threats, the ability of other players to pull up in areas where they could be a goal threat and score goals was important. He did that. But he is still relatively young and I think there is more to come from him.”

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Celtic as a club have, for a variety of different reasons, struggled to build on their treble-winning season in the past eight months or so. Taylor, however, has remained dependable at the back and occasionally impactful going forward. He is currently the highest-scoring defender in the league leaders’ side with three. 

He is also seldom unavailable for selection. He has made no fewer than 38 appearances for his club in all competitions to date this season. Only goalkeeper Joe Hart, playmaker Matt O’Riley and striker Kyogo Furuhashi have featured in the first team more often than him.  

With Bernabei moving to Internacional in Brazil on loan last month to get much-needed game time, Celtic are currently short of cover at left back. They recruitment staff will doubtless be scouring the globe for players in that position who they can bring in during the summer. Whoever they unearth will have their work cut out displacing the current incumbent.

The Greenock-born player will continue to be a key man for Brendan Rodgers during the coming weeks. He will be determined to add to his haul of seven major honours – which is seven more than Barton ever won – and increase his chances of being named in the Scotland squad for the Euro 2024 finals in Germany in June.

If he achieves his objectives, he will maybe get the credit he richly deserves.

The National: