Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers will give Odsonne Edouard the opportunity to feature more regularly in his first team over the festive period.
Since arriving on loan from Paris Saint-Germain on transfer deadline day, the 19-year-old striker has made just three starts but Rodgers revealed that the quality and dedication he has been bringing to the training ground, not to mention the hat-trick he scored against Motherwell last weekend, will see him involved more frequently.
A hectic schedule, which will see the champions play 11 games in 34 days before the winter break, should also see the teenager benefit from squad rotation, although Rodgers stressed that would not be the only reason for his inclusion.
“I also think it’s about form; there’s a clear change in his performance level in training which you now see in the games,” he said.
“He’s been really unfortunate. He’s come in as a big talent after being voted in the 100 best players under 21 in the world. He’s come here with a view to develop and get better. He’s walked out of 35 degrees in Paris to Glasgow in the cold weather, without speaking the language and having to deal with new team-mates. It takes time.
“The form of the other two [Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths] has also restricted his game time. In his debut against Hamilton he scored and was great. Then, against Hibs, he didn’t perform as he’d want but Kolo Toure and I had a great chat with him in terms of expressing the demands of a big club. You can be as talented as you want but it’s a working talent; you have to be on it every day in training. At lesser clubs you could not do so well in training and know you’re still going to play. That’s why some guys suffer when they join a big club. Once you’re there you need to be on it every day of your life.
“The penny has dropped with Odsonne so in training he’s now aggressive, he’s no longer timid and he’s displaying a high level of technique. He knows the game tactically, he’s physically strong and fast. The penny has now really dropped for him.
“When he came on against Motherwell at Fir Park he was lively for that period. At Parkhead on Saturday, when we wanted a different dynamic at the top of the field, he was brilliant with his movement. I have no qualms of him playing at all now if I feel the game needs a certain type of player in that central corridor to play, sprint, work and to score goals. So, hopefully, from now until the end of the season you’ll see his talent, whether he’s playing or coming off the bench.”
Rodgers is also comforted by the knowledge that the player’s loan contract provides Celtic with the option of buying him outright next summer. “I think the boy is really enjoying it here,” he said.
One player who has enjoyed better spells in the hoops is winger Scott Sinclair. Although he remains their leading marksman, he has scored just twice in his last 13 games and has looked in dire need of a rest recently. Rodgers, though, defended the 28-year-old, whom he first worked with as a youth-team player and signed from Aston Villa for £3.5 million at the beginning of last season. He went on to become Scotland’s Player of the Year.
“To be fair, Scotty has put himself out a few times this season when he wasn’t 100 per cent,” he said. “Against Anderlecht the other night he had a real bad knock on his ankle from our home game against Motherwell and I’d say probably 8/10 players probably wouldn’t have made themselves available for that tie on Tuesday. He wanted to help the team but clearly he wasn’t quite at his best, physically.”