Efe Ambrose: Sarcastic cheers just make me stronger

Efe Ambrose signed for Celtic back in 2012. Picture: Robert Perry
Efe Ambrose signed for Celtic back in 2012. Picture: Robert Perry
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Efe Ambrose has become a figure of fun and target of derision for many Scottish football supporters.

The Celtic defender’s reputation for high profile and often costly mistakes seems to precede him wherever he is in action across the country.

Ironic cheers for his appearance and every touch of the ball has become something of a trend among opposition fans in recent weeks.

But Ambrose insists those who single him out are simply wasting their breath. The Nigerian international is nothing if not a resilient character and he is confident he will enjoy the last laugh at his detractors.

“I’ve heard this a lot and the only thing you can do is shut them up,” said Ambrose. “The place to do that is on the pitch. You have to make them realise it doesn’t matter what they say. It just encourages me to be better on the pitch.

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Everything that happened is done. I just focus on what I’m doing now. I try to keep my head cool and concentrate on doing the simple things.

Efe Ambrose

“The opposition supporters will never affect me. Fans try to get on someone’s back, they always pick on someone.

“Unfortunately, they have tried to pick on me recently. But they have picked the wrong guy, because I am mentally strong and will not allow anyone to put me down.

“If anything, it makes me more determined. It’s just a question of focus. The passion I have for the game makes me stronger and it will make me better even if people do this.

“I can point to the medals I have in the last four years with Celtic. I have a lot. So that’s one side of it. But, really, it’s not about that. I just try to bring something to the club. Helping the team, achieving the goals of the club and hoping that helps me achieve my goals as well.”

Ambrose, right, was publicly criticised by manager Ronny Deila earlier this season for a “stupid mistake” which helped Fenerbahce recover from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in a Europa League match at Celtic Park.

Deila stressed that Ambrose had to improve his concentration levels over 90 minutes in order to cut out the errors which were blighting his performances too often.

The 27-year-old believes he has responded positively to Deila’s words. Ambrose also feels the Celtic defence are benefiting from a switch from zonal to man-to-man marking in recent weeks.

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Partnering Jozo Simunovic in central defence, Ambrose has just helped Celtic keep two consecutive clean sheets for the first time since September.

“The manager has been good for me,” he added. “He has really helped me to cut out the lapses in concentration from my game. When I make a mistake, he will call me into his office and make sure I realise it and I will work on it on the training pitch.

“He really helped me after the Fenerbahce game. I think I have improved a lot on some of the things I have worked on. Right now I am more focused and more determined.

“Last year, we were conceding too many goals at set pieces with slack defending. We have worked hard on that and have started this year well.

“We try to go man for man, instead of waiting for someone in the zone. We’ve tried to improve the tactics we use there and it has helped us at set pieces.”

Ambrose, who is under contract to Celtic until summer 2017, has been linked with a move to Chinese Super League club Shanghai SIPG who are coached by former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.

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But Celtic manager Deila has no desire to offload Ambrose during the current transfer window.

“Efe is a good guy to have around and he’s never injured,” said Deila. “It is a dream to have a player like that in your squad. He is important for the squad and has had good games for us lately.

“He always puts the team before himself and it’s unbelievable to see how much he cares about Celtic. He deals with the criticism very well and he isn’t making so many undisciplined actions as he did before.

“His biggest challenge is to stay concentrated for 90 minutes and he is doing it well.”

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