"He's been fantastic" - Celtic player's rebirth explained, and vital role in dressing-room

It was suggested by Ange Postecoglou on taking charge at Celtic last June that there would be winners and losers among the club’s squad.

Celtic's Nir Bitton celebrates at full time following the 2-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle on Wednesday. A victory in which his captaincy and commanding midfield presence - in the injury absence of Callum McGregor - were central as the Israeli continued his renaissance under Ange Postecoglou. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
Celtic's Nir Bitton celebrates at full time following the 2-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle on Wednesday. A victory in which his captaincy and commanding midfield presence - in the injury absence of Callum McGregor - were central as the Israeli continued his renaissance under Ange Postecoglou. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

Into the former bracket certainly comes Nir Bitton. The Israeli was considered no more than iffy centre-back cover in recent seasons. Now, the 30-year-old has become both the Australian’s go-to holding midfielder and captain in the absence of Callum McGregor – two roles he excelled in as Hearts were defeated in midweek. Bitton has been restored to a vital component of the Celtic squad through being restored to the central area he occupied in the early years following his £1m move from Ashdod in August 2013. Postecoglou posits Bitton has benefitted from previous preconceptions being set aside.

“As with all these things, people look at things differently if he has been here for a while,” he said. “I came in with fresh eyes and a new perspective and I just look at how they are training and playing. Nir has been great since I got here. If you look historically, he hasn’t played that many games in the last three or four years in the league. He is going really well and playing in a position which I think suits him and suits us. Nir has played a lot at centre-back, but for us, I feel he is much better suited to the midfield. He has that experience and leadership because he has been at the club for so long. I think he has been fantastic for us.”

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Hugely popular among his team-mates, Postecolgou doesn’t pretend he factored that in on handing Bitton the armband when McGregor hasn’t featured for Celtic across the past two months. “I’m not that involved in the dressing room to see that, but I kind of know he is an important part of the leadership we have in there,” said the 56-year-old. “He has taken Liel Abada under his wing and he has helped the young man to adapt here because they both have had similar experiences. He knows the environment here, the culture and the football and looks as though he is enjoying it, which is a positive.”

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