TS Eliot claimed that April was the cruellest month but Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers could be forgiven for harbouring suspicions that June has the potential to deliver some sadistic blows to his club’s European ambitions.
He already expects to have six players in Gordon Strachan’s squad for the must-win World Cup qualifying tie against England and Scott Sinclair may yet feature for the Auld Enemy.
On top of that Dedryck Boyota (Belgium), Mikael Lustig (Sweden), Emilio Izaguirre (Honduras), Cristian Gamboa (Costa Rica), Eboue Kouassi (Ivory Coast) and Nir Bitton (Israel) could also be representing their countries, but the biggest cause for concern would appear to be midfielder Tom Rogic’s national service this summer.
Like many of his team-mates, the 25-year-old had been playing the best football of his career under Rodgers’ tutelage but he suffered an ankle injury in the victory over Dundee on 17 December.
That required an operation and he was sidelined until making appearances off the bench (totalling just 46 minutes) for the club’s last two matches against Partick Thistle and Kilmarnock.
However, Rogic, a £400,000 signing from Central Coast Mariners in 2013, is certain to be selected by Australia coach Ange Postecoglou for this summer’s eight-nation Confederations Cup in Russia.
The Socceroos will face world champions Germany in Sochi on 19 June, Cameroon in St Petersburg three days later and Chile in Moscow on 25 June.
Should they qualify for the semi-finals, they will be in action again on 28 or 29 June, with the final and third/fourth place play-offs on 2 July.
With Celtic due to play the first leg of their Champions League second qualifying round on 11 July, Rodgers will be anxiously following Rogic’s progress. However, he is optimistic that Postecoglou will not place unreasonable demands on a player who has just spent four months on the sidelines.
“I know Ange and he’s a good guy,” said Rodgers. “I first came across him when we went with Liverpool to Australia and we played against his team before he became the national manager.
“There were 96,000 fans in the Melbourne Cricket Ground for that and he’s a big Liverpool supporter so I had a good couple of days with him.
“I chatted with him, he has good ideas and he’s a good coach. We can speak about Tom and it is something that I will trust Ange on.
“He has other players, of course. Tom is another one of them and I don’t think there is any drama in it. Ange will look to use him as much as he can, as well as being aware of where he’s at with his injury.
“We’ll see with Tom. We just need to look at that. He’s been out for quite a long time and he’s now back training. He’s come on in the last couple of games and you can see the difference that he can make when he goes into the team. We’ll just monitor it between now and the end of the season.
“Tom is a very proud boy and, of course, he wants to play for his country. He has missed a large part of the season so it might even be the best thing for him to get a number of games over there. We’ll see.
“I’ve been talking to Tom on it. There’s a lot of travel for him. To Australia and then back out again to Russia to play in the tournament… I’m not sure he’ll play in all five games.”
On a more positive note, striker Leigh Griffiths, who has been missing since sustaining a back injury during Scotland’s recent 1-0 win over Slovenia, could return against Ross County on Sunday.
“Leigh has trained since Tuesday,” said Rodgers. “He’s looked very good and he’ll be in the squad all being well and he comes through the next few days.”
The Irishman also expressed his sympathy for Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel, whose side were forced to play their Champions League quarter-final first leg against AS Monaco on Wednesday evening, less than 24 hours after their team coach had been the subject of a traumatic terrorist attack which led to Spanish defender Marc Bartra being taken to hospital with a hand injury.
“I heard Thomas last night,” he said. “I am sure it was a shock what happened and you can only imagine being in that position and having to do that so I had a lot of empathy for them.
“They then had to play against a top-class team looking for a big prize, a place in the Champions League semi-final at stake.”
Nuri Sahin, the Turkish midfielder who worked under Rodgers while on loan at Liverpool from Real Madrid, said afterwards that he could not concentrate on football so soon after the explosions which were intended to kill them.
“I didn’t see the interview but you can understand that,” said Rodgers. “You think of your own mortality then and I think they did well to make the game competitive [Dortmund lost 3-2 at home] .
“You would have thought Uefa could have postponed the tie until next week; there would have been no hardship in doing that and people would have understood.”