RONNY Deila believes Tom Rogic can become “something special” for Celtic as the Australian midfielder begins to emerge from an injury-disrupted start to his career with the club.
Rogic scored his first goal for the Scottish champions to set them on their way to a 2-0 victory over Partick Thistle at Firhill which maintained their 100 per cent winning start to the defence of the Scottish Premiership title.
His touch on the ball, his understanding. He is a very good football playerRonny Deila
The 22-year-old joined Celtic in January 2013 but made only his sixth starting appearance for them yesterday, a serious groin problem having sidelined him for much of 2014 and cost him a place at the World Cup finals with Australia.
But Deila has remained convinced of Rogic’s potential to perform at the highest level and believes he can force his way into Celtic’s Champions League plans as they bid to reach the group stage this season.
“Tom was very good today, especially in the first 40 minutes,” said the Celtic manager. “You can see what kind of talent he is. His touch on the ball, his awareness, his scanning, his understanding – there are a lot of things he can give to the team. We will see much more of him.
“When I first came to Celtic, I didn’t hear anything about him so I didn’t know who he was. He was injured the whole time, one year out with injury almost. When we got him started again, I saw he had something special – his touch, his understanding. He is a very good football player.
“I said to him that he would never leave this football club before he gets a real chance. He now shows that he deserves a chance. He is also a very good professional. He wants to develop all of the time and he is not satisfied to sit on the bench. So he has a lot to give to us.
“Everybody gets a chance here. They have every day in training to show themselves. I am after improvement, people who want to get better, people who want to learn and have ambitions. I saw early on that Tom had that.
“I felt very sorry for him in the first six, seven or eight months that I was here. He was just walking around and didn’t do anything because of injury. But he has the mentality to succeed. He has already been on the bench in the Champions League this season and he is an option for the team at that level if he shows what he did today.”
Rogic expressed his delight afterwards and admitted to experiencing dark moments during his recovery process.
“It was a long road and at times you get a bit negative,” said Rogic. “But I’ve been working really hard over the past year or so and working towards a day like this. So it was really pleasing for myself to get back out there.
“Everyone in the dressing room has been positive with me and that made going in every day a bit easier. The manager has given me a lot of confidence this season as well. There have been a lot of lonely hours in the gym but I need to keep pushing on. If I keep working, then opportunities will come.”
Deila was satisfied with a dominant Celtic performance at Firhill. “It was an important match for us and the first 35 minutes were maybe the best we have done so far this season,” he said. “We played fantastic football and defensively Thistle could hardly make two passes. Then we got a little bit sloppy and maybe a little bit tired as well. Some of the players, like Tom, haven’t played for a long time and he felt it at the end of the first half because we pressed very hard.
“There are always things that you can improve, but again we kept a clean sheet and Thistle didn’t have once chance, maybe only a half chance. We scored two good goals and produced some good football.
“We are improving all the time. I love working with the boys here. They always want to get better. The first 35 minutes today was good rhythm and timing in what we were doing. We opened Thistle up a lot. If we can continue doing that for longer spells, it is going to be very hard to beat us this season.”
The only negative aspect for Deila was seeing Stuart Armstrong limp off after just 20 minutes with a groin problem. “He was stiff and tight before the game and we should maybe have rested him,” said Deila. “I wanted to play him and that was a bad decision. But it is nothing serious and he will back on Wednesday against Kilmarnock or maybe next Saturday against Inverness.”
Celtic captain Scott Brown missed out yesterday with a hamstring strain and looks likely to be absent again for the midweek trip to Rugby Park.
“Scott has played every second of every match before today and has done a lot of running in the past few weeks,” said Deila.
“He was stiff in his hamstring and had a small cramp at the end of the Qarabag game. So he needed to miss this game and maybe the next one as well. We will see what we do with him. After that, he will be very ready again.”
Partick Thistle manager Alan Archibald felt his team made life too easy for Celtic in the crucial opening period of the game.
“We didn’t do enough, we didn’t make it a battle and the first 30 minutes were really disappointing,” said Archibald.
“We didn’t retain the ball and make it a battle against Celtic, which we have to do. Our shape was fine, but we gave Celtic too much respect.”