Former Cork City striker explains what it's like to face the might of Celtic

Former Cork City striker explains what it's like to face the might of Celtic
Celtic's Scott Sinclair scores a penalty at Ibrox. Picture: Craig Watson/PA Wire.

Graham Cummins on the Celtic experience and how Brendan Rodgers raised the profile of the Scottish league

CELTIC just like they have been on the pitch this season were the big winners at the PFA Scotland awards. 

Brendan Rodgers, Scott Sinclair, and Kieran Tierney deservedly collected the Manager of the Year, Player of Year and Young Player of the Year awards.

Rodgers has been excellent not just for Celtic but for Scottish football. 

He has raised the profile of the league this season. 

He has managed to produce the best Celtic team for a number of years, probably since Martin O’Neill's time in charge of the club. 

Not only has the Northern Irishman signed quality players for the club, he has been able to better the players that were at the club when he arrived, which is a sign of an excellent manager. 

Stuart Armstrong is a shining example this season of just how Rodgers has developed the Celtic squad into better players. 

Ross County's Marcus Fraser (left) and Celtic's Stuart Armstrong. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire. 
Ross County's Marcus Fraser (left) and Celtic's Stuart Armstrong. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire. 

Armstrong was an average player last season and couldn’t hold down a regular spot in the team. 

Playing against Celtic you were happy to see Armstrong in the starting 11 because his displays up to that time were nothing to fear, but this season having already scored 14 goals compare to four the previous year, Armstrong is one of the best players in the league and it is no surprise to see him linked with a move to England.

One of the most difficult tasks for managers is to keep players motivated when they are not in the team but Rodgers also appears to possess this skill. 

Celtic's Dedryck Boyata. Picture: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire. 
Celtic's Dedryck Boyata. Picture: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire. 

Dedryck Boyata appeared just once for Celtic under Rodgers in 2016 and having played for teams like Bolton Wanderers and Manchester City I’m sure the Belgian international would have knocked at the manager’s door a few times during the start of the season.  Whatever Rodgers must have said to Boyata worked because since the turn of the year he has been a revelation not only in defence but also in attack having scored four goals in his 18 appears this season.

The only surprise with Rodgers is when he signed a new four-year deal with the Scottish champions back in April. 

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers. Picture: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers. Picture: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire

If Celtic do go on to remain domestically unbeaten and complete the treble, then is there much more the 44-year-old can achieve at the club? 

He was probably a victim of his own success at Liverpool.  He nearly guided the club to the league title which set expectations too high in the club.  Since his departure, Liverpool have lost two finals and are struggling to maintain in the top four. 

His stock took a hit following his sacking at Liverpool but it is on the rise again and I would have thought he would be looking to go back down south to prove his doubters wrong.

Scott Sinclair was the stand out choice for Player of the Year.

Celtic’s Scott Sinclair holds up a shirt given to him by fans at Celtic Park, Glasgow. Picture: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire
Celtic’s Scott Sinclair holds up a shirt given to him by fans at Celtic Park, Glasgow. Picture: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire

Sinclair, 28, has scored 25 for Celtic since his £3.5 million move from Aston Villa last summer. 

He has been a big game player for Celtic this campaign scoring in three out of the four league Old Firm games, a hat-trick against Hearts the day Celtic won the league and also scoring the winner against Hearts on the opening weekend of the season which is probably his most important. 

Sinclair has never fulfilled his potential, after a promising stint at Swansea, the winger underwhelmed at Manchester City, West Brom and Aston Villa.  Sinclair never really got a run of games at these clubs, it appeared these managers never truly believed in Sinclair unlike Rodgers. 

Without a manager’s belief, a player will go into a game worrying that unless you score you won’t play next week or that you won’t last the full 90 minutes, that eventually you will be substituted. 

Knowing you have the full manager’s support, you won’t worry that every time you make a mistake you are giving the manager an excuse to substitute you. 

You know that even if you have one or two bad games that you will be given the opportunity to stay in the team and redeem yourself. 

Sinclair is playing like a player with so much freedom and even has raised questions of should he receive a call-up for the next England squad?

Rangers' Andy Halliday and Celtic's Scott Sinclair. Picture: Craig Watson/PA Wire. 
Rangers' Andy Halliday and Celtic's Scott Sinclair. Picture: Craig Watson/PA Wire. 

It will be difficult for Sinclair to get a call-up as long as he is playing in Scotland, which is why he may seek a move away in the summer.  Although he has been at the club less than a year, he is English and will always want to play in the English Premier League.

Tierney picked up the Younger Player of the Year award for the second season in a row and naturally is linked with a move to England. 

At only 19, Tierney is one of the most exciting prospects the league has seen for a number of years.  His athleticism even after he suffered a bad injury this season is above any player I have witnessed. 

Celtic's Kieran Tierney. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire. 
Celtic's Kieran Tierney. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire. 

Obviously, questions will be asked, does he get tested enough defensively?

The same questions were asked about Virgil van Dijk and clubs in England were unwilling to take that gamble except for Southampton and now Van Dijk is worth in the region of £40-50 million. 

Van Dijk’s exceptional performances for Southampton will have helped any potentially future move for Tierney because clubs will not want to risk losing out on such a wonderful talent just because he plays in Scotland.

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