Opening day at Celtic Park is a fitting reward for Livingston’s miracle men, insists Lions defender

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BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport

LIVINGSTON star Declan Gallagher has revealed how WhatsApp went wild as the Lions landed a trip to Celtic Park on flag day.

The Livi squad, who do not report back for training until next Wednesday, were glued to their group chat as the SPFL fixtures were unveiled at 9 a.m. on Friday morning.

And news of their opening day clash against the Hoops was met with delirium as the Almondvale outfit begin their first top-flight campaign since 2006 in style.

Gallagher believes the mouth-watering curtain-raiser is a fitting reward for Livingston’s miracle men, who upset the odds to win promotion from the Championship last season.

He said: “The boys are just really excited. From the WhatsApp group chat, it was nothing but positivity.

“As soon as the fixtures dropped all the messages started piling in. I think it’s the first time during the holiday period that all the lads have been awake at 9 a.m.! There was such a buzz.

“There would have been that sense of excitement regardless of who we got first, but Celtic is something a bit special.

“It’s going to be a full house and a great experience for everyone associated with the club. If you asked the boys how they wanted to start, I think the majority would have said going to Celtic Park on flag day.”

Gallagher still remembers how Livi began the 2016/17 campaign. With a trip to the modest surroundings of Peterhead’s Balmoor in League 1 – the big defender even found the net in a 3-2 victory.

Walking out at Parkhead will underline just how far Livi have come.

He continued: “The club has come on leaps and bounds in the last two years and it’s all down to the hard work and attitude. That has paid off and this feels like a reward for it.

“The first game of the League 1 season was Peterhead away – so it’s fair to say that’s a bit different from Parkhead! Times have changed.

“Towards the end of last season, we were still trying to keep our feet on the ground but, the closer we got, the more you start to think ‘we could be playing at places like Parkhead and Ibrox next season. Now it’s a reality.

“Playing against teams managed by Brendan Rodgers, Steven Gerrard, Derek McInnes and Neil Lennon will be brilliant and, from a personal perspective, you look at the talent Celtic have and the fact they have spent £9m on a striker (Odsonne Edouard) and say: I want to test myself against the best.”

Gallagher knows most onlookers will not give Livingston, still managerless following the departure of David Hopkin, a prayer against Brendan Rodgers’ double treble winners. However, the Lions are used to that.

He added: “We’re not there to make up the numbers. We got to the Premiership through hard work and organisation. Nobody expected us to get this far and nobody will expect us to get anything at Celtic Park – but we’ll give it a right good go.”

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