‘I’m trying to be a leader’ says Celtic’s Christopher Jullien

P lugging up any gaps in defence as he threw himself into every situation despite a plugged-up bloody nose, Christopher Jullien in Copenhagen on Thursday night was every inch the definition of the defiant one. The Frenchman appeared to assume the mantle of Celtic combatant-in-chief following the loss of injured Scott Brown, inset, as the Scottish champions held out for a 1-1 draw in their last-32 Europa League tie. That was entirely deliberate says the 26-year-old.
Christopher Jullien, right,  has welcomed the ‘champions’ mentality’  he has encountered at Parkhead. Photograph: Niels Christian Cilmann/AFP/Getty.Christopher Jullien, right,  has welcomed the ‘champions’ mentality’  he has encountered at Parkhead. Photograph: Niels Christian Cilmann/AFP/Getty.
Christopher Jullien, right, has welcomed the ‘champions’ mentality’ he has encountered at Parkhead. Photograph: Niels Christian Cilmann/AFP/Getty.

“I’m trying to be a leader,” said the £7 million summer signing from Toulouse. “I have the support of others in the team who are definitely leaders, like Scott and Callum [McGregor]. They make it easier for me. I just try to be as strong as I can and speak to my team-mates all the time.”

Jullien will stretch out his 6ft 5in frame to its most imposing this afternoon as Celtic look to rack up an eighth straight league win when hosting Kilmarnock. The club’s consistency – they have lost only twice in their past 28 games across all competitions, with 25 wins in that period – is allowing them to believe a quadruple treble and a last-16 Europa League place are all within their grasp. For Jullien, matchwinning drive is a must that his move to Scotland has immersed him in.

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“We have already won a trophy this season and we want more. We need to be focused and take it game by game,” Jullien said. “It is just a champions’ mentality. I came to Celtic to have that mentality behind my back and to have team-mates who remind me every day that we are here to win everything. I’m really happy to learn that this season and to be with colleagues who have that attitude is really enjoyable.”

The centre-back’s irritation over the failure to win for only the second time in a game that mattered since October in the Danish capital’s Parken Stadium on Thursday is evidence of the mentality he takes into every game. No matter that Neil Lennon’s men will be favourites to get over the line in the tie come Thursday.

“We definitely feel we should be in a better position after the first leg. We could have been two or three up in the first 15 minutes,” he said. “But we will take that away goal, which is obviously positive for us, and see how it is next Thursday. I’m disappointed we conceded a goal but defensively we were OK. In the second half, Copenhagen were pushing a lot.

“We definitely have to change some aspects of our game for the second leg because we allowed them too many crosses into the box. We have to put more pressure on them and I’m sure we will. We know we should have scored more goals in Copenhagen but we feel confident about the second leg. We just need to keep that mentality we have had since the turn of the year and win.”

There were fears that Jullien would be unable to complete the first leg encounter after Dame N’Doye headed him flush on the face to burst his nose. But the player has been toughened up by his duels in Scotland and wasn’t prepared to depart the scene.

“That was a difficult one for me,” Jullien said. “I told the referee and their striker that I was clearly in the air and was clearly going to win the ball. Why was he coming? He knew he wasn’t going to win the ball. The referee said we both played the ball but their striker definitely didn’t. He took more of my head than the ball. But since I joined Celtic, I’m getting used to that now.”

The Scottish champions were required to get accustomed to the use of VAR on Thursday, the review system crucial to the home side winning a penalty saved by Fraser Forster for a Ryan Christie handball. Jullien had no major issues over that decision but feels VAR was underused the other evening.

“I think VAR should have come into the Copenhagen goal,” the defender said. “Their striker clearly put his hand on the ball in the build-up. It was right in front of my face. That’s why we lost it. For me, I felt it was definitely not going to be awarded as a goal. In my head, I was sure VAR would rule it out.”