Despite seeing his chance at cementing a first-team place in the Celtic side hampered by simultaneous misfortune of a badly-timed injury and the meteoric rise of Ryan Christie, Youssouf Mulumbu insists he’s more than happy that his Parkhead club-mate is continuing to shine while he begins his Scottish football life over again at Kilmarnock.
The Congolese international returned to Rugby Park for a second spell late on transfer deadline day after failing to make an impression during his first five months in Glasgow.
Mulumbu was one of the best players in the country last season but couldn’t find a suitable destination in the summer once his contract expired. He would eventually sign with Brendan Rodgers’ side on the last day of the summer window, though he played only three times in the first half of the campaign.
It was therefore somewhat ironic that his first start since teaming up with Steve Clarke for a third time – the pair also worked together at West Brom – came against Celtic’s biggest rivals in the fifth-round of the Scottish Cup.
Mulumbu was granted the man-of-the-match award by sponsors William Hill after the 0-0 draw with Rangers, secured with the aid of a missed James Tavernier penalty, which will see the sides do it all over again at Ibrox a week on Wednesday.
Though his match sharpness was still lacking in areas – he was dispossessed by Ross McCrorie in the build up to a late chance for Jermain Defoe – his quality was evident on the Rugby Park turf. He came so close to marking the occasion with a goal, only to be denied by a clearance from Andy Halliday on the line amid an almighty scramble inside the penalty box.
“Obviously at Celtic, I didn’t have many games and it was a bit frustrating, but I’m back at Kilmarnock and there was a little bit of pressure to be involved in the game and to prepare. I was happy,” said Mulumbu. “It’s a different game against Rangers and I thought that we did good. We made some mistakes but didn’t lose a goal and Dan [Bachmann] had a great save with the penalty.
“It was hard at Celtic. You are going into a team which is winning every game and you see players like Ryan Christie, who deserved to play, to get his chance. When I had the chance to play, I was injured and, like I said, Ryan took the spot and we were in the same situation.
“He got the chance and he took it by playing well and scoring in every game. It happens in football. Sometimes you need the luck to be there at the right time and I know things can change quickly.
“I spoke with the manager at Celtic and he said that, if I could get some games by being on loan, he’d let me go. We are on good terms and I came to Kilmarnock with confidence and a little bit of disappointment, so I need to show I’m a good player and that’s what I intend to do.”
Asked if he regretted his move to the reigning champions, he responded: “No, no, no. It’s a great club and my team-mates were amazing with me.
“I’m here for six months to help Kilmarnock and if I do everything right and if we achieve something very good, I know I’ll be back at Celtic in the summer and everything can change from there.
“In my head, it’s not over at Celtic. If you speak with Brendan and the lads, they know I want to go back and do great things for them.”