Kolo Toure: Helping each other key to success at Celtic

His primary function at Celtic will be to bring solidity to a central defence which has been the source of too many woes for the Scottish champions in recent times.

Kolo Toure dons his new colours at Parkhead. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS Group
Kolo Toure dons his new colours at Parkhead. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS Group

But Kolo Toure also intends to ensure his vast experience of elite European and international football has a wider benefit for his new team-mates.

After 14 seasons in the English Premier League – which he won with both Arsenal and Manchester City – the 35-year-old has gleaned just about everything there is to know about the attributes necessary to succeed at the highest level.

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Toure is keen to pass on that knowledge at Celtic where he is enthused at the the prospect of working again with Brendan Rodgers who previously signed him for Liverpool three years ago.

The Ivory Coast international is still grateful for the mentoring he received from the senior Arsenal professionals when he joined the Gunners as a 21-year-old. Toure now hopes to be a similarly positive influence at Celtic.

“Any way I can help, I will be ready for that because of my experience,” he said. “It is not easy for young players sometimes. When they have the chance to speak to a guy who has had a long career it can help them to improve themselves and to try to avoid things that I’ve done that I can tell them about. They can avoid doing the same mistake.

“I had Martin Keown to help me that way when I went to Arsenal as a young player. I was in the team and he wasn’t playing, but he gave me advice all the time. I have kept that mentality ever since.

“It wasn’t about the competition for places between us, it was about helping each other achieve success together. I learned that from those guys - Martin, Sol Campbell, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry. I was part of that environment and that’s why we did so well. Together, we were strong and we helped each other to get better.

“I was doing that with the young players at Liverpool under Brendan, and even under Jurgen Klopp last season.

“Mr Klopp wanted to change the team and play his own style. With Brendan, everything was perfect for me. I gave everything for him on the pitch and at the same time I was able to speak to the younger players and advise them when I could.

“That’s why I’m here. Football is a great job but it’s not easy. So if you can help the young players, it is great.”

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Toure had offers to remain in English football but found the fresh challenge offered by Rodgers at Celtic a simple one to accept.

“I am looking forward to it because the story of this club is massive,” he added. “I have been at other clubs that have a story as well. I am used to that and I really want to enjoy this time.

“When you are linked with a team like Celtic you are just so happy because it is one of the best clubs in the world and you want to join the team straight away. Brendan is here as well and that made things much easier. I am delighted that I have signed for this club.

“There was always a chance to stay in England but for me to join a club like this and with a manager who has been good to me was important. I also want to see something else as well. I have been in England for 14 years and to come to another country and play in another league was important.

“It is great because there is no massive change – my family will still enjoy it here because it is English speaking and that was important. Brendan is a top manager. He is somebody that I have worked with and had a great time at Liverpool. We nearly won the league and everybody in the UK knows he is a top, top manager and when somebody calls like that, you are just so pleased. I love to work with him because he is a nice guy, he is very intelligent, very experienced and very organised.”

Toure was not deemed fit enough to make the trip to Kazakhstan for the first leg of Celtic’s Champions League third qualifying-round tie against Astana tomorrow.

But he is expected to get his first outing for the club in Saturday’s International Champions Cup challenge match against Barcelona in Dublin, a fixture which could see him face his former Liverpool team-mate, Luis Suarez.

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“What a debut – playing against Luis!,” said Toure. “It’s going to be great for my fitness, because we will have to work hard against a top team.

“I like to play in games like that, I’m looking forward to it. It will be nice to see Luis again, but I hope he doesn’t play!

“No, of course, I’ll be really happy to see him and to play against him.

“He is a top, top striker. He is very aggressive in front of goal. That will prepare me really well for the season.

“Of course, Brendan Rodgers played a big part in Luis’ improvement as a player. As a manager, you need to be able to get the top players into a situation where they can fully express themselves.

“Everyone is different and you have to manage them differently. Brendan knew how to manage Luis very, very well. That’s why he has been amazing and he is now such a top player.”