Celtic’s Tom Rogic eager to repay Deila in Europa League

Tom Rogic looks ahead to tomorrow night's Europa League clash with Ajax. Picture: SNS
Tom Rogic looks ahead to tomorrow night's Europa League clash with Ajax. Picture: SNS
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While many may be contemplating the impact further European failure this week would have on Ronny Deila’s position as Celtic manager, Tom Rogic is not among them.

According to the Australian international midfielder, Deila’s future is not an issue which has been exercising his mind or those of his team-mates.

But ahead of tomorrow night’s Europa League showdown with Ajax at Celtic Park, where only a victory will keep the Scottish champions’ hopes of further progress in the tournament in their own hands, Rogic does admit that providing Deila with a timely boost to his continental credibility is a major source of motivation.

“I don’t think we’ve thought about (the manager being under pressure),” said Rogic.

“As a squad, we are very united. We’re all together and work closely with the manager and coaching staff. We’re completely behind him.

“Of course (I want to do well for him). He’s put trust in me and I want to repay that faith. I’ve worked hard to get back to this level of football after injury. The manager has helped me and I want it to continue.”

Rogic remains relatively inexperienced at European level but will have an added level of responsibility thrust upon his shoulders against Ajax.

Celtic’s midfield options are significantly diminished, with both Stefan Johansen and Nir Bitton suspended for the fixture while Charlie Mulgrew remains on the injured list.

Captain Scott Brown is expected to recover from a knee injury in time, but Kris Commons is a more serious doubt.

“We’re missing a couple of big players but whoever plays on Thursday will be ready,” said Rogic. “We have a good squad. We haven’t talked about tactics just yet but whatever decision the manager makes, I’m happy to play either an attacking or defensive midfield role.”

After missing the whole of last season with a serious groin problem, Rogic has been revitalised under Deila in recent months and has produced several eye-catching performances for Celtic.

But the 22-year-old’s first ever European starting appearance for the club was a major anti-climax earlier this month when they lost 2-1 at home to Molde, completing back-to-back losses against the Norwegian side which left them at the bottom of Group A with just two fixtures remaining.

“As a group and individually we let ourselves down against Molde,” reflected Rogic. “It’s frustrating because we didn’t play to the level we can.

“We’ve been working hard to make sure that we can perform to our best on Thursday.

“It’s a massive game and we know what’s at stake. We still have a chance to go through and it’s just a case of going out there and performing.

“We’ve obviously not been good defensively so far in the group. There have been sloppy mistakes individually which haven’t helped. But we’ve been working hard to correct that.

“At the weekend we kept a clean sheet against Kilmarnock which was a positive. We’re now just looking to carry that into the match on Thursday.

“Obviously Ajax are a good side. I thought we played well against them when we drew 2-2 in Amsterdam at the start of the group and we were in a situation where we could have gone on and won it.

“It just wasn’t to be that night. But I think that if we can perform to the levels we’re capable of then we can certainly get the result we need this time.

“I don’t think too many people would have predicted how this group would have panned out. But we can’t look back, we have to just look forward.”

Rogic’s agent is currently in discussions with Celtic over a new contract, with his current deal due to expire in the summer of 2017. He is now hopeful of a lengthy stay at the club but admits he was uncertain earlier this year whether he had any future at all with Deila’s squad.

“It’s turned around for me and I’m just enjoying playing regular first-team football,” he added. “I’m also fit and that’s been important.

“You never know what can happen in football. It can change so quickly. Was I completely sure I would come back here and get in the team this season? No is the answer. But that’s how it worked out and I’m really happy with that.

“I’m not trying to prove myself to anyone but myself. Had I left Celtic without giving it a real crack because of injuries, that wouldn’t have been ideal. But it’s in the past now and I want to keep on developing.

“The manager came and spoke to me last season, which I missed through injury, and we spoke over the season. When it came to the end, we discussed my future and coming back to training and playing a few reserve matches.

“I was back in full training and the manager said it would be a fresh start with no guarantees. So I came back on the same level playing field as everyone else, and he said that if I performed he would give me an opportunity. Luckily that proved to be the case.

“I don’t think you can ever get comfortable with it. I’m always trying to get better. There is no thought in my mind that I can get comfortable or that I don’t have to work for every chance to play.

“I hope I am at Celtic for years to come. I’m definitely settled here, I enjoy it, and the club were very supportive over the last 12 months. I feel good and believe I am in the right place to move forward.”