Celtic winger Patrick Roberts has confounded his doctors and delighted his manager, Brendan Rodgers, by announcing that he’ll be available for the away game at Ross County a week on Saturday.
The 20-year-old, on loan from Manchester City, missed last week’s Champions League visit of Bayern Munich and Saturday’s 4-0 win over St Johnstone in Perth with a hamstring injury and Rodgers had been told that he could be out for another six weeks.
That estimate has turned out to be on the pessimistic side and Roberts will be available for the remaining European fixtures against Paris St Germain and Anderlecht as well as this month’s BetFred Cup final against Motherwell.
He said: “I’m out jogging so, hopefully, I’ll be back training next week and, all being well, I’ll be back for Ross County.
“I had the same thing last year around the same time so I know what to do, I know the procedure.
“It’s all about getting on with it and getting back to fitness. I’m planning to be back playing as soon as the international break is finished. We’ll see what the physios say but I should be fine.
“It would have been hard if I had been out for longer but there are lots of games. Our objective was to go back into the Champions League and then try to finish the best we can and stay in Europe.
“We can still do that and, thankfully, the injury is nothing too serious.”
Roberts, one of the few Celts not on international duty, was speaking at the club’s training complex about setting a new British record when the victory at McDiarmid Park extended Celtic’s undefeated domestic run to 63 games in all competitions.
It is a feat which, in England, has either gone unnoticed or been downplayed due to the perception that the Premiership is lacking in both quality and competitiveness. Roberts, though, is having none of it.
“I think they also underestimate the mentality we have in our squad,” he added. “The fact we’ve gone that many games without being beaten is incredible.
“They may talk about the [strength of the] league and all that but, as players, we don’t think about that. We have to play against who we play against and it’s always a hard ask when you’re losing during games. But we always find a way to fight back and win or get a draw. That’s something the manager has brought into us and it’s why we’ve gone so far. We just enjoy winning.”
One of the pundits who has derided that sequence is former Rangers midfielder Joey Barton, who lasted less than two months at Ibrox before being sent packing following an anonymous display during a 5-1 victory for Celtic at Parkhead.
“Exactly – and we’ve gone 63 unbeaten. It’s some ask but we did it and we’ll strive for even more,” said Roberts.
“It’s tough up here, especially as we’re playing against players who want to beat us and stop our run. So they’ll be giving their all and more to try to win in every game, and we’ve had about nine in 38 days.
“We’ve still had the same mentality to go and win and we keep getting results. It’s credit to us what we’re doing and it’s good to be around this place.”
Roberts believes some of the sneering comments from English pundits are born of ignorance, not only of the Premiership but of the side that Rodgers has rebuilt.
Roberts said: “In the Champions League against Bayern Munich the other week, we were incredible.
“They are a top team in Europe and I know we didn’t do well away to them but, at Celtic Park, we were another level and I thought we were tremendous.
“Some teams down in England did see that we’re not here just to make up the numbers. We’ve improved over the last year under the manager, we’ve come a long way and we’re still improving now.”