After the disastrous campaign under Neil Lennon the previous season, Celtic brought in a new manager from the other side of the world that not many on these shores had ever heard of. The man in question of course was Ange Postecoglou, and one person who would have had more knowledge on the new boss than any of us had was Celtic stalwart Tom Rogic. The midfielder had of course played under Postecoglou during his reign as manager of Australia.
Many of us felt that with a manager in place who knew exactly what Rogic brings to the table, and more importantly how to utilise that talent, we could see the ‘Wizard of Oz’ become an integral part of the Celtic team once more. We were correct in this regard, as from the get go Rogic was involved in pretty much every match, initially being brought on from the bench and then progressing to claim a starting berth regularly.
It didn’t take long for him to start making his mark, scoring in his first league start against Dundee before coming on and claiming an assist in the next match against St Mirren. With Ryan Christie getting the big move him and his dad were constantly talking and dreaming about when he signed for the giants that are Championship club Bournemouth, Rogic had a clear path to claim the attacking midfield berth as his own.
At the time Ange Postecoglou seemed to feel that his best midfield line up was Callum McGregor, David Turnbull and Tom Rogic, certainly an attack minded midfield. It was a midfield that had the ability to absolutely blow away some of the shall we say ‘easier’ league opponents, yet it did come in for some rightful criticism at times especially in Europe where it seemed to lack a bit of steel in the middle.
After a hamstring injury that kept him out for the month of November, Rogic bounced back in December, hitting a purple patch before that run was interrupted by being called up by his nation at the end of January. The international call up saw him missing crucial wins against Hearts, Dundee United and of course that great night against theRangers at Celtic Park at the start of February. It was during this period that new Celtic signing Matt O’Riley was able to impress in Rogic’s absence, setting up a battle between the two to see who would claim the attacking midfield position as their own during the rest of the season.
Throughout the rest of the campaign Postecoglou would take the opportunity of having a much stronger squad to rotate his attacking midfielders, neither one totally claiming it as their own as both players continued to produce the goods when picked. The battle between the two was definitely a talking point amongst Celtic fans with everyone having their own opinion on it. Personally I preferred Rogic in the position although O’Riley was certainly proving a capable replacement.
Rogic was once again magnificent for Celtic last season and it came as no surprise that he was in the reckoning for player of the season, although the award going to Callum McGregor was definitely the correct outcome. In every season during his time at Celtic there were always matches where Rogic stood out as an absolute magician on the park, and this season was no different with a wonderful performance against Motherwell where he netted twice sticking out in my head as one where he was absolutely unplayable.
During last season Rogic actually played more games in a single campaign than he had during his previous 9 years at the club, making 50 appearances in total. Within that time he managed to score six goals and create ten assists. It was clear to see Ange had got the best out of Rogic last season, it was also apparent that the Australian had managed to improve his fitness, often playing the full 90 minutes with ease.
In terms of output, last season was up there with his previous best which was during the 17/18 campaign under Brendan Rodgers where Celtic won the treble once again. That season was incidentally also the last time Celtic played in the Champions League group stages. That season was interrupted by a knee injury that kept the Australian on the sidelines for two months, missing eleven league games in that period, which makes his then return of eight goals and nine assists look even better.
After Rogic put up an emotional post on social media once Celtic had claimed the league title, people started to suggest that Rogic was perhaps getting ready to leave the club he signed for in 2013, although after the season he just had under Ange Postecoglou, most of us believed it was simply a case of people getting carried away. Sadly the rumour was true as the player himself announced that the final game of the season against Motherwell was to be his last, much to the anguish of the majority of Celtic fans.
I wrote an article upon hearing the news that it was a bad decision letting the Australian leave after he just had such an incredible season. As it turns out Rogic himself wanted to leave for a new challenge, perhaps back in his homeland or even a stint in the Middle East which will set his family up for life financially.
Either way I truly hope Celtic tried their all to keep him, players like Rogic are a rarity and I genuinely feel privileged to have watched him play and would have loved to have saw him get a chance to impress on the grandest stage in club football one more time, as Celtic take on Europe’s best once again next season. I’m sure I’m not the only one who will be hoping he can go on to shine at the World Cup, which of course is inexplicably being held during December this year.
In conclusion I feel like Rogic was fantastic last season. He bounced back under the guidance of fellow countryman Ange Postecoglou to become one of Celtic’s most important players. In my mind only Callum McGregor stood out above Rogic during the campaign and therefore I will be giving the Australian an 8.5/10.
It’s a pity we won’t be seeing Rogic once again line up for Celtic next season. Wherever he ends up however I wish him all the best and thank him for the many wonderful memories he has left me with. The word legend gets bandied around too often these days but Rogic is certainly in that category. He will be sorely missed.