Brendan Rodgers has transformed the whole club since he arrived at Celtic at the start of the season. The Northern Irishman’s side have yet to lose in domestic football – only dropping points in a two apiece draw away to Inverness. They have also already secured the campaign’s first piece of silverware and their 100th trophy in total, with their victory over Aberdeen in the Betfred League Cup final at Hampden Park in November.
The former Swansea and Liverpool manager has re-signed players he previously worked with such as Scott Sinclair and Kolo Toure and also brought in young striking sensation Moussa Dembele from Fulham. The 20-year-old Frenchman, who has scored 17 goals in just 30 appearances in all competitions, has been a wonderful piece of business and has grabbed almost all the headlines since his summer arrival. However, it is one of the players who has been at Parkhead since 2015 that has caught the eye most prominently.
Stuart Armstrong, who arrived at Celtic on 2 February 2015 from Dundee Utd in a double swoop alongside Gary Mackay-Steven worth £2.5m, initially struggled to make an impact through a mix of injuries and not being selected in the starting XI. When he did play it was in an unnatural role in a left-sided midfield position under Norwegian coach Ronny Deila. He looked uncomfortable playing away from his preferred central role and it’s fair to say his career had completely stalled.
The 24-year-old’s career hung in the balance but Rodgers has breathed new life into him since the summer when he handed him his chance. One which he has undoubtedly taken.
Armstrong has mostly played centrally, either next to club captain Scott Brown or just to either side of him in a three-man midfield with Callum McGregor on the other side. The man who used to ply his trade at Tannadice has also been pressed into occasional service at right-back. One thing is for sure, wherever he has played his contribution of eight goals and five assists in 17 Premiership outings so far this campaign has not been underestimated in any way by the Celtic Park faithful.
It is not only the Blonde Cafu’s contribution in terms of goals and assists that has been impressive. He has shown real composure on the ball – particularly in the Champions League – and his direct style, full of running and energy has galvanised the Hoops in the absence of Tom Rogic. This form has people talking about the possibility of his inclusion in the next Scotland squad, which is set to be named by national team manager Gordon Strachan ahead of the World Cup qualifying encounter against Slovenia at Hampden Park on 26 March. There are few Scottish players whose form has been anywhere near that of Armstrong’s this season and I for one would have him in the squad in a heartbeat.