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A room of my own with super-fit John Hartson

John Hartson seems to be treating pre-season as a pundit a little more seriously than he did in his playing prime.

The former Celtic striker was never a slouch but his bulk did win many jousts, creating the openings for more than 100 goals in the hoops.

More than a decade on from his brilliant recovery from cancer treatment Hartson makes the most of life with Scotland his adopted home as he picks up on a variety of media contracts while being a regular on the Celtic supporters circuit.

Back in the day a bar or snooker table would have been more likely for his spare room than the latest gym equipment to keep him as close to his fighting weight as possible.

Around his gym room are a few reminders of his playing highlights including a painting of his celebration after scoring for Celtic at Anfield and a captain’s armband for Wales.


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Discussing his old ways in 2018 he told the Glasgow Times:

I have to say that it was with some interest, and no little shiver down my spine, that I read Brendan Rodger’s comments about the current batch of Celtic players and the expectations when they return to the club for the start of pre-season.

Two and a half kilos overweight and away you go to train with the kids until you get it off.

First things first. I got away with murder with some of the managers that I worked under. I’ll be honest about that. When I was at Celtic, Martin O’Neill told the physios that I was to be weighed first thing on a Monday and again on a Friday. I used to tell the physios myself what my ‘weight’ was, once I’d knocked a few pounds off. I’d tell them and they’d scribble it down on a note to the gaffer and that would be that.

Martin was old school. He knew if he got me to a certain level of fitness I’d get 25 goals every season for him and so we’d a wee bit of give and take there.

I’ll be honest with another one. Gordon Strachan was more in Brendan’s mould. He was keen to embrace the sports science element and we wore the heart monitors and all the rest of it although to be fair to Gordon, like Martin, he knew that as long as I could get about the pitch I’d get the goals for him.

But I remember one day walking through the front doors at Celtic for one of the opening days of pre-season training, whistling away to myself and in a fine mood. And then I heard that they’d set the bleep tests up. My heart sank.

So by the time I got to the dressing room I’d a bit of a limp. I hobbled into the physio with a really tight hamstring – no point in aggravating it before the season had started, was there? And so I got a wee rub down and skipped the bleep test.

Then, one unsuspecting day about six weeks later there I am, sauntering out to training when I spy the cones set up in the far corner of the training pitch. The music box for the bleep test is there. Waiting. And I know, I just know. Gordon put his arm around me. “Right, big man, off you go now….you’re the only one who’s missed it.”

You think you’re getting one over a manager but you never really do.

Every manager I worked with was different but they all gave me a bit of wiggle room because they knew I’d score goals. And I knew I’d score goals and I knew how to economise my movement. I don’t know that nowadays you’d get away with that.

These days it is doubtful if a young Hartson would get through the fitness net but when you can find the back of the net clubs will always make an exception.

Arsenal, West Ham, Wimbledon, Coventry and Celtic all enjoyed the benefits as did Wales. Ironically he did fail a medical at Ibrox in 2000 but that was probably the biggest break of his career.

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