JACK Ross hopes facing Celtic with Alloa Athletic earlier in the season can help him prepare St Mirren for next month’s Scottish quarter-final at Parkhead.
But the Buddies boss is under no illusions just how difficult it is going to be against the runaway Premiership champions-elect.
Before switching to St Mirren in October, Ross steered part-time Alloa to the last-eight of the Betfred Cup and led them to a narrow 2-0 defeat against the Hoops just a few weeks earlier.
The Wasps won plaudits for their steely display before finally having their resistance broken by an 83rd-minute James Forrest strike and Moussa Dembele’s last-minute second.
There was a sense of deja vu for Ross after St Mirren were paired with Celtic and he has confessed to cursing his luck at Sunday’s draw, even if there has been a sense of excitement buzzing round the Paisley club since.
He said: “I think it’s the draw that everybody who has progressed to the quarter-finals wanted to avoid, simply because of the form that Celtic are in this season.
“With it being at their stadium it only makes it even more difficult.
“But I’ve got experience of going there this season, at the same stage of the League Cup, so I know first-hand how difficult it is, but I also know what can be achieved on the night.
“So, when the game comes around, I think it’s a fantastic occasion for us to go and take part in.
“With the conversations I’ve had with some of the players already, I know how much they’re looking forward to it and how much they’re looking forward to meeting the challenge as well.
“We’ve obviously got important games in between but I think it’s something for everybody at the club to look forward to.”
Ross reckons his experience of taking Alloa to Parkhead can only help him when it comes to the build-up to the tie on March 4 or 5.
But, even though he believes he now has better players at his disposal at St Mirren, he knows Celtic have moved up the gears since that night five months ago.
He told www.stmirren.com: “It’s different circumstances and a different competition, and I would suggest that Celtic are even stronger than they were then, because they’re into this flow of games and performances at the moment that is incredible.
“But it’s good that I’ve got recent experience of going there and seeing first-hand how they play, how their players play and what strengths they have.
“So, it will help on the preparation side.
“And I’m going there with a stronger quality squad than I went there with that night, so that is encouraging for me as well.”