Celtic manager Ronny Deila insists Efe Ambrose retains his faith despite the latest costly error from the Nigerian defender.
Ambrose’s weak header back towards his own goal paved the way for Celtic losing a 2-0 lead against Fenerbahce in their Europa League Group A fixture on Thursday night.
The 26-year-old has inevitably borne the brunt of criticism aimed at the Scottish champions for being forced to settle for their second consecutive 2-2 draw in what is proving a keenly-contested group.
Ambrose has previously committed high-profile errors in a Celtic jersey, most notably in the 3-0 home defeat against Juventus in the last 16 of the Champions League three seasons ago. But Deila believes Ambrose has improved his overall performance levels over the past 12 months and stressed he will remain an integral part of his plans.
“Efe has made mistakes before and he is an experienced boy who has been to big games and to the World Cup,” said Deila.
“I am not afraid of playing him. He knows he is making progress and he feels good because he knows he has played well over time. He was very sorry about the mistake on Thursday but every player makes mistakes. He needs to move on from it, learn from it and follow up the progress he has been making because 98 per cent of his game on Thursday was very good.
“He is in my squad and he has played a lot of games under me. If I see people develop, they have my confidence. But if they make the same mistakes over and over again, then we have issues.
“But with Efe – and I say this all the time to him – his biggest task is concentration. One year ago he was making more mistakes than he does now. He is much calmer on the ball and he doesn’t take so many risks with the ball. But still he has issues with easy mistakes that we have to get sorted.
“He is still only 26 years old and also off the pitch he is a very good person to have in the squad. He always works 100 per cent in training. He always stands behind the team and supports the team and that is very important. He knows what he has to work on and he enjoys working and seeing the improvement. Now he is very disappointed but he will get over it and move on.”
Ambrose will be missing when Celtic take on Hamilton Accies at New Douglas Park tomorrow as he serves a one-match suspension for his late dismissal in last Saturday’s 0-0 draw at home to Hearts.
“You can’t talk about that incident as the same kind of thing,” added Deila. “That was a difficult situation for him. He did make a big mistake on Thursday, but it has been a while since he did a thing like that, so it’s a positive.”
Perhaps the most positive aspect of Thursday night for Deila was the performance of 18-year-old left-back Kieran Tierney as he made a composed European debut as deputy for the suspended Emilio Izaguirre.
“He can be the long-term replacement for Emilio, that’s what we are hoping for,” said Deila. “He has a big future because of two things. First, because he is gifted in terms of fitness, speed and agility.
Second, he is unbelievably committed to being a top player. He learns quickly and is curious to learn all the time.”
Deila, meanwhile, has cooled talk of Celtic’s interest in Nigerian striker Leke James who plays for Norwegian side Aalesund. James has claimed Celtic have been watching him recently.
“I watch everyone in Norway so he can say that,” smiled Deila. “I’ve seen his matches but also the others in Norway. He’s a good football player but we haven’t been close to doing something there.”