Motherwell boss Stuart Kettlewell is relishing the challenge of facing a rampant Celtic side after achieving an unlikely success under the toughest of personal pressures on his previous trip to Parkhead as a manager.
The Steelmen face a side on Saturday who have won 17 consecutive matches and 21 successive domestic home games.
Celtic were aiming for a 36th consecutive domestic cup victory when Kettlewell took his Ross County team to Parkhead in November 2020. The stadium was empty because of Covid restrictions and the hosts’ 10-in-a-row charge was floundering, but Kettlewell was under as much pressure as home manager Neil Lennon, albeit not as publicised.
County had not won in seven league matches and Kettlewell had been warned his job was at risk, but goals from Ross Stewart and Alex Iacovitti earned his side a win.
“I do take aspects of it, facing a completely different side,” Kettlewell said. “Of that team, there is maybe only Callum McGregor and Greg Taylor that’s left from that group.
“It’s a completely different challenge but I also look at aspects when you go to these big venues and play against the big teams, what has worked for you in the past, what can you draw on, what comparisons can I make from the group of players that I now work with that might be effective in this game.
“Like I say, the style is completely different, the dominance right this minute is completely different, but you definitely draw on aspects that may have worked for you before.
“You might have to tweak and adjust them, but I think it’s important if you have a plan that worked for you before, you don’t deviate too far from it.
“It was a fantastic day for me personally and for Ross County, but you can maybe try some sort of blueprint that can make you competitive at Celtic Park.”
The 38-year-old added: “From a personal point of view, without going into it too much, I had been made aware at the time that I had a couple of games to save my own job.
“Going in there with that knowledge, you have got to thrive on it. I don’t think there is a more high-pressure situation than going to Celtic Park and being told you had a couple of games to save your job. I relish a challenge, I relish a bit of pressure.
“In terms of the players, they have done enough in recent weeks to suggest they are a good side and we have a good group here as well.
“We have good competitors who want to be challenging for the three points that are available.”
Kettlewell’s cup triumph offered only temporary reprieve – he was sacked after County lost the next four matches.
The Dingwall side, then led by John Hughes, repeated their win over Celtic three months later, with midfielder Blair Spittal back in their team following a loan spell at Partick Thistle.
Spittal is now reunited with Kettlewell and on form as he seeks another scalp.
“It’s a totally different Celtic team now that we beat up there, but you need to go into these games with the belief you can get something,” the midfielder said.
“We know it’s going to be tough and the atmosphere is going to be really good, but these are the sort of games you want to play in. As a player growing up, it’s what you relish.”