It’s a funny old game, Stuart Armstrong and his footballing future

STUART ARMSTONG is concentrating on getting game time and improving his fitness as the clock ticks down on the season and maybe his time at Celtic.

The ex-Dundeee United man, has always harboured ambitions of playing in the Premier League in England. If he ever did regard Celtic as a stepping stone along the way to reaching his target and fulfilling his dream then he needed the arrival of Brendan Rodgers to turn that into even a possibility.

Under Ronny Deila he was played out of position wide left and looked uncomfortable and ineffective as the Norwegian’s Celtic side got over the line in the league, but offered little more to cheer.

By September 2016 the reformed Rangers pitched up at Celtic Park for the first time ever and Armstrong came on as a second half substitute, with the game already won, to add insult to injury for the visitors by scoring  a lovely  fifth goal.

He went on to have  a bit of a purple patch after that as Celtic powered towards an invincible treble. Armstrong made his debut for his country in March 2017 – former Celtic manager Gordon Strachan described it as the best international debut he’d ever seen – and Armstrong by that time even had a song all of his own from the supporters. And a cracker of a song it is too!

That purple patch, looking back, ended with his very last touch of the season last June at Hampden. A few weeks earlier, at the same venue he got the glory of scoring in the Cup Final win against Aberdeen but this time in the closing seconds of a must win match against England, the ball fell to Armstrong and a toe-bash into the crowd was all that was needed and Scotland – thanks to those two wonderful free kicks from Leigh Griffiths – would have won. We all know how that ended.

Rumours of a summer exit persisted, not without foundation, and it looked at one point like West Brom were lining up a bid. You have to remember that that was under one or two managers ago, so it would be back to the drawing board for that one!

Nothing concrete emerged and a one year contract extension was agreed with Celtic. The problem had been kicked into the long grass for a season but, although unspoken, everyone knew we’d be in exactly the same position 12 months on.

Except of course that this is football and it’s a funny old game is it not?

Armstrong recently described the amount of football that the Celtic players have to play as a ‘nightmare’ – the Scotland bhoys had just two weeks off last June before having to report back for pre-season training ahead of the all important Champions League qualifiers.

It was as if two seasons had been rolled into one and if you look at the injury list that Celtic have had to endure this term, you can see the toll it has taken on the squad.

After Wim Jansen stopped the ten, Celtic supplied a significant number of Scotland players for the World Cup in France. It was no coincidence that the following season Celtic had probably our worst luck with injuries until probably this season.

For Armstrong he played on – when selected -in the first half of the season but his form was suffering as he carried a groin injury. By the time he was hauled off at half-time in the 1-0 defeat to Anderlecht in the final Champions League match of the season – most folk were asking what has happened to Stuart Armstrong?

He went to Dubai in January and still it wouldn’t ease so a decision was taken to send him to Germany for an operation. He returned to action in the closing stages at Ibrox  on Beautiful Sunday and now sees the remaining part of the season as an opportunity to get playing again and improve on his fitness.

Any chat of a move is not something he’ll openly discuss.

“I had five minutes against Rangers, 30 minutes against Motherwell, and then another half an hour against Costa Rica (they played Scotland the other night, you might have read about it elsewhere). I’m definitely feeling much better physically now than I did in December — I’m much more like myself again.

“I’m feeling good and really looking forward to being involved in the big games between now and the end of the season. It was difficult getting the operation because the injury had bothered me for a fair length of time. But it was a situation which needed to be resolved, it wasn’t something which I could keep putting off. There’s no doubt it was beginning to affect me.

“So I’m just glad I was able to finally get it sorted, even though it did take a little longer for me to recover from the surgery than I would have liked. But I’m back now and I’m ready to go again. My last start was in the 0-0 draw against Rangers at Parkhead in December.

“Since then we’ve had the winter break, been away in Dubai, and then come back again. So it seems as though I’ve been out for much longer than I actually have. I’m just happy to be stripped for action again.”

Brendan Rodgers spoke about players wanting to stay at the club – guys like KT, James Forrest and Callum McGregor – and others who see their time at Celtic as only part of their career, somewhere they will spend two or three years then move onto the somewhere new.

He also stressed that it is not personal, that players have short careers and he made a particular mention of what Stuart Armstrong knows he has at Celtic. Is it enough though?

We are about to find out which category Stuart Armstrong fits into, although most of us have probably guessed. The problem may be that his Celtic star isn’t shining so brightly these days. It’s a funny old game right enough.

Maybe another one year fudge deal is on the cards….

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

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