Fit again Armstrong’s ‘shop window’ football, but don’t forget the Brendan factor

STUART ARMSTRONG looked lively for Scotland last Tuesday and followed that up by a superb goalscoring, man of the match performance against Ross County at the weekend.

The midfielder’s second season under Brendan Rodgers guidance has been one of mostly injury restricted frustration causing him to play on – fairly poorly it has to be said – to try to play his way through the problem. It wasn’t working and he went under the knife in Germany after returning from the sunshine of Dubai in January.

And the wisdom of that decision to sort the troublesome groin problem once and for all has started to benefit the national team and of course Celtic at the weekend.

Yet there remains the unspoken concern at the back of the supports’ minds – is this just ‘shop window football’ we are seeing from a player who is about to be back in exactly the same position he was in last summer – with a year to go on his contract and a stand-off with the club over a new deal?

Armstrong has only talked about this season, getting back to fitness and playing and enjoying his football again – which is fair enough.

Celtic are now so far in front that not even the red-tops are warped enough to mention that there is a title race, we are back to Kevin Bridges’ show-jumping at the top of the SPFL. There is a decent race emerging for second spot though with Aberdeen and form side Hibs both winning at the weekend and Rangers dropping points at Motherwell.

Yet it is a tantalising prospect if Brendan Rodgers can convince Armstrong to stay at Parkhead for the long-term. Rodgers spoke about this a week or so ago – referring to players who are happy to stay at Celtic (McGregor, Tierney, Forrest) while others see it as a short career and that they are happy to do their time at Celtic before moving on to another league (Boyata and Armstrong were the players that he seemed to be referring to).

Griffiths is fit again too!

But Brendan, more experienced as a manager these days, doesn’t take it personally. It didn’t used to be but now he admits that it is just business – football business. Rodgers has a strong bond with both Boyata and Armstrong and both players will weigh this relationship up over the next few months as they consider where they will be playing their football next season.

On Armstrong’s performance against Ross County, Rodgers was delighted by his contribution to the 3-0 victory which brings the 7th League win in a row a little bit closer.

“He has been building his way back into contention,” Brendan said.

“He showed his energy and all the qualities that he has, scored a great goal, worked very hard and played the position very well with good technical discipline in the game.

“He tired a bit in the last 20 minutes but we wanted to get him through 90 to keep pushing him with his game time.

“So I was very pleased with him.”

Armstrong too was delighted to be back in the thick of the action, injury free.

“It was nice to be back, starting and playing 90 minutes,” he observed.

Leigh Griffiths and Paddy Roberts also played a part on Saturday, giving Rodgers even more options as he looks towards wrapping up the league flag for another year and of course focusing on the crucial semi-final against Rangers on the weekend after next.

“We are going into a really exciting part of the season where it is all now about your mental fitness.

“We have the talent. But is now about approaching one game at a time,” Rodgers stated.

While contract talks remain on hold for now, Rodgers will be looking to convince Armstrong that his career will prosper in Paradise rather than chasing his long term dream of playing in the Premier League. That may or may not be an option for him in the summer but his time in the ‘shop window’ between now and the end of the season will give him a chance to impress any potential suitors.

Or he might enjoy himself so much that he will decide to stay where he is.

Whatever happens, remember, it isn’t personal. It’s just football.

Listen to more on the Stuart Armstrong situation on The Celtic Star Pod. 

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who 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

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