Maik Nawrocki stays bullish in face of Celtic critics - 'you have to block things out'

Polish defender says he never regretted his decision to move to Glasgow

It is a fact that Maik Nawrocki has never had a bad game for Celtic. Equally true is that the central defender has had precious few games for the club he joined from Legia Warsaw in a £4.3million deal last summer.

Those two facets of the 22-year-old’s troublesome first six months in Scotland didn’t stop dark mutterings over the player’s prowess after he was sidelined by a hamstring injury sustained in only his third outing – in the Viaplay Cup exit away to Kilmarnock in August. As Nawrocki failed to resurface until the festive derby victory, he was deemed to be a prime example of the Scottish champions’ flawed summer transfer business – one among the sizeable collection of seemingly under-cooked and underwhelming acquisitions. It was forgotten that the defender had been a rare decent performer in the dismal display at Rugby Park that marked an early setback for Brendan Rodgers in his second spell at the Celtic helm.

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Narwocki doesn’t downplay how difficult it was to push through his hamstring issue only weeks on from moving to a new club and country. He didn’t make that any more taxing by paying any heed to being brutally written off without having made any on-field missteps to warrant such harsh appraisals. “I think as a football player you have to block things out and avoid reading everything,” he said. “It’s normal that people judge you and speak about it but I am a football player and I know how to deal with it. It didn’t bother me in any way.”

Maik Nawrocki is back in the Celtic fold.Maik Nawrocki is back in the Celtic fold.
Maik Nawrocki is back in the Celtic fold.

Narwocki understood he couldn’t expect to walk back into the Celtic team he hadn’t had time to cement his place in – with the cup loss only his second start, after debuting from the bench. Not when during his rehab, Liam Scales emerged as a rock-solid partner for central defensive mainstay Cameron Carter-Vickers. Especially when his injury had meant he wasn’t named in the club’s Champions League squad list. He admits his misfortune caused him some autumn anxieties, but with three faultless appearances after replacing Stephen Welsh in the early minutes of the Rangers win at the end of December, he feels like “this is the start of the journey” for him at Celtic all over again. Reward for proving “mentally strong”, using his time out to work on his game and be ready for the moment to play again that Rodgers assured would come, and quickly dispelling any thoughts that made his career hadn’t been best served by coming to Scotland when Turkish club Galatasaray also wanted him.

“I think it’s normal to think about that,” Nawrocki said. “But in the end, every time I spoke with someone about it, I never doubted my decision to come here. I feel I fit in here perfectly. I knew myself that it would only be a matter of time before I was back playing. I was always confident that in the end it would go well for me. There were other decisions I could have made. But I am very happy to be here, with all the people, and the situation was just something no-one could have predicted. But sometimes that happens in football. And I never doubted or regretted my decision to come here.”