“It’s a bit of a nightmare, it’s been back-to-back seasons,” Armstrong on the punishing Celtic schedule

STUART ARMSTONG made his first appearance of the year for Celtic when he came on for the last five minutes on Beautiful Sunday.

A troublesome hernia problem had to be dealt with so he travelled to Germany when the squad returned from the January training camp in Dubai to go under the knife.

The former Dundee United player was outstanding last season and was rumoured to be off last summer with the likes of West Brom keen on signing Armstrong. A compromise of sorts was reached with Celtic and a 12 months extension was signed, effectively putting all parties back to where we were last summer.

Maybe the only difference is Armstrong’s stock is no-where near as high, having been on the treatment table for the past three months. He gets that himself and is desperate to get back into action.

“Most of the boys have had that slog through December, January and February,” Armstrong noted.

“I’ve not played a game, apart from my five-minute masterpiece against Rangers, since December 30. So it was nice to have a rest physically and mentally and I feel ready to go again.

“The hernia wasn’t one that would go away. It needed to be fixed at some point, so the winter break was a nice opportunity to fix it.

“If you look at everybody in that changing room, they will all have something wrong with them that they are playing with.

“You look at the amount of games James Forrest and Kieran Tierney have played this season. It’s incredible. I don’t know how they keep going,” although he could have spoken to soon as KT is now injured and not expected to play at Fir Park today.

“The schedule here is something I have never seen before and will probably never see again, with the domestic, the qualifying, the European games and the cups.

“It’s a lot of games, especially when you get such a short break in the summer. It’s a bit of a nightmare. It’s been back-to-back seasons for most of us, especially the boys who had internationals in the summer.

“But I feel good physically now. I had a lot of time running and preparing to get back into training, but games are always different. I feel good and if I wasn’t capable of starting, I wouldn’t haven’t been on the bench last Sunday.

“We are finishing off the season and we have played a lot of games. We have a very good, big squad at the club, a lot of quality to come in and rotate, so if people have played a lot and maybe need a rest, it’s important that there’s people coming in to replace that quality.

“It always seems to be an exciting game when we play Motherwell. We had three matches in seven days against them earlier in the season and I think the anger levels rose between each game.

“It’s strange sometimes how fixtures happen. There was another time we played Dundee United four times in a row, which was bizarre.

“There have been a few tasty affairs, but they are a good side and have been doing really well of late.”

There might not be too many more occasions we’ll see Armstrong in a Celtic shirt, if he does decide to head to the Premier League in the summer. Brendan Rodgers spoke about the possibility of losing one or two players, who simply want to go try something else. He recognises that guys like KT, Calmac and James Forrest are likely to stay at Celtic come what may but that will not be a universal position within the squad. He specifically spoke about Armstrong.

“I just want to help Stuart become the best player he can be. He knows what he has here, he knows the opportunity he has here and I know he respects that. So I don’t tend to get bogged down too much with that. I have a strong relationship with him. I know what he thinks and we will just look to continue developing him,” Brendan said.

“When I was younger I used to think it was personal, but it’s football. Players have short careers; of course, I’d love them to stay here but there are numerous reasons – on both sides as there could be issues with the club as well – that doesn’t allow them to sign.

“My job is to try to keep them and if they decide their future lies somewhere else, that’s fine. I just need to protect Celtic while also helping them as much as I can whilst they’re here.

“There are a few going into last year of contract – Tom Rogic and Dedryck Boyata too. Players are within their rights, if they feel the deal or the offer is not right or just purely if they don’t want to sign. Some are happy to see out their career at Celtic, playing for trophies with a huge club and have no interest in moving and will play 500 or 600 games – ie Callum McGregor, someone like that.

“You’ll get players who will see this as a two or three-year project; an opportunity to play for a huge club and be a winner, then move on. Then you have others who think they want to stay and then they get a big offer and they go and then the club tries to get maximum value.”

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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