Gary Mackay-Steven looking forward to playing without pain

Gary Mackay-Steven, Tracy Burns, left, and Mandy Burns promote the Homeless World Cup. Picture: SNS
Gary Mackay-Steven, Tracy Burns, left, and Mandy Burns promote the Homeless World Cup. Picture: SNS
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In a season when Celtic were regularly subjected to criticism from punters and pundits alike for much of the football they produced, Gary Mackay-Steven had to endure more than his fair share of the flak which was flying around.

The winger struggled for consistency and effectiveness throughout the campaign which culminated in the departure of Ronny Deila, the manager who signed him for the Scottish champions.

Mackay-Steven is now 
having to contend with a false start to life under new boss Brendan Rodgers, having remained at home over the past week while the first team squad have been at their pre-season training camp in 
Slovenia.

The former Dundee United player is still recovering from surgery on an ankle problem which dogged him for much of last season.

But out of sight has not meant being out of mind for Mackay-Steven as far as Rodgers is concerned, with the 25-year-old having received encouraging assurances from the former Liverpool manager that he will have a role to play in the months ahead.

“The manager spoke to me before the squad left for Slovenia and he has also called me while they’ve been away,” said Mackay-Steven.

“Even though it’s the early stages of his time here, you can tell he’s a great man manager who ensures you don’t feel left out.

“If you are in my situation, where you’re not quite ready to train yet, then that’s been great and it gives me an added incentive to get back out there.

“He didn’t need to phone me to check on my progress as he could have just heard it from the medical staff, so it’s a nice touch from him.”

Mackay-Steven will miss the start of Celtic’s Champions League qualifying campaign, which kicks off against Lincoln Red Imps in Gibraltar on Tuesday night, as he eyes an August return to action.

“There was a bit of bone in my ankle which had been there for a lot of last season,” he added. “It hindered me a lot with pain and I needed to get it taken out. I had surgery at the end of the season and the recovery time was always going to be three months. It’s a great relief for me. It’s never great getting surgery but I knew a long time before the operation that it needed to get done. The best time to do that was at the end of the season, once we had wrapped up the league title.

“It’s a great relief to know that, when I return, I’ll be pain free and good to go with all guns blazing.

“There was a temptation to get the operation done earlier but I knew I could get by with painkillers. I was taking them in high doses quite a lot, so that wasn’t ideal.

“My stomach is probably not in a great state after last season! It was one of those things where I may be able to get by and it might not bother me but it was affecting me a lot.

“The manager wanted me to play all the time and the league was tight, we were also in cup competitions and I wanted to play as well even knowing I wasn’t fully fit. I’m happy we won the league and I was able to contribute a little.

“There were good days and bad days when I would be okay and then it would get sore but it would always be there. As a player you never want to get that type of injury so, when I knew I could get it sorted, I wanted it done so it was a relief when I was operated on at the end of the season. Now I’m only thinking ahead.”

l Gary Mackay-Steven was promoting the Homeless World Cup opening ceremony which takes place at 12.30pm tomorrow in George Square followed by Scotland’s opening games against Hong Kong and Norway. Entry is free, no tickets are required.