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LED'S GET IT ON.. OLD FIRM CRUNCH NIGHT CELTIC V RANGERS, CELTIC PARK, 7.45PM.

Byline: HUGH KEEVINS

JOE LEDLEY took one look at the final league table of last season and his heart broke into pieces.

It showed Celtic lost the championship to Rangers by a single point and reminded the Welshman that first is everything and second is nowhere.

But the journey to that realisation was a painful one.

The Hoops midfielder said: "You put everything into the season and work your socks off in every game.

"Then you see the league table and it's not nice.

"Obviously we only had ourselves to blame but what we went through was heart breaking. We've learned from that."

A visit to the depths of despair has prevented Ledley from being over confident and promising that Celtic can complete the transformation of recent weeks by leapfrog-ging Rangers at the top of the table tonight.

He added: "It's going to be a difficult game because Rangers are still top of the table and they have some good players.

"It'll be tough but we're on a good run at the moment and hopefully that'll continue.

"But, win, lose or draw there are a lot of games left to go. It has already been shown this season that you can lose points and pick them up very quickly."

The Parkhead side have accumulated a perfect 24 points from their last eight matches.

At the same time Rangers have shed a 15-point lead over their greatest rivals and it is now down to just one.

Ledley's the first to admit that scenario didn't seem possible at one stage of the season, but despair was never a visitor to the Parkhead dressing room.

He said: "We believed we could play better than we had done at the start of the season.

"Now our attacking play has improved and we've started to score a lot of goals. We're also defending well. We had a suspicion that Rangers would start to drop points.

"We watched videos over and over again to find out where we were going wrong and we found out what we needed to know.

"The team worked on its mistakes in training and the improvement has been proved on the pitch."

If the final league table of last season was a visual reminder of failure then Ledley also has a mental image of how good it can feel to be an Old Firm winner.

And it's an image he wants to update tonight.

The 24-year-old said: "The 3-0 win over Rangers at Celtic Park last season was the best derby I ever played in.

"The atmosphere was tremendous and we played some great football.

"That's my best memory of Old Firm derby day. A repeat would be nice."

Celtic's season moved up a gear when they beat Rangers 2-0 at Ibrox in the New Year fixture 12 months ago.

If they win tonight and then enjoy a similar run it could end a four-year wait for the title.

Ledley said: "Last year we had a lot of new people coming in and others who were moving out.

"This time we're more settled and if we keep playing the way we've been doing for our last eight games you never know what might happen.

"We didn't make the best of starts but we're more experienced now and have rediscovered our form.

"You can point the finger at a lot of things.

"But it's as basic as doing more as a team and not forgetting you're a unit. We needed to work harder for each other.

"Everyone's now working their socks off."

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 28, 2011
Words:605
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