BRENDAN RODGERS highlighted the progress of Liam Scales and Paulo Bernardo as the springboard for other Celtic players in the second half of the season.
The Hoops boss is delighted at the way the pair have responded to the challenges that comes with performing for the champions every match day.
Scales, who looked to be heading back to Aberdeen for a second successive loan season, answered a Hoops SOS when the central defence was decimated with injuries to Cameron Carter-Vickers and Maik Nawrocki early in the campaign before they were joined on the sidelines by Stephen Welsh and Gustaf Lagerbielke.
HERE WE GO AGAIN…Brendan Rodgers speaks exclusively to Celtic TV.
The Republic of Ireland international has become a mainstay in the back four while Bernardo, moving into the second pahse of his loan transfer from Benfica, has at last responded in outings just before the winter break to show the skills that could earn a permanent move to Scotland’s title kings who are bidding for their twelfth crown in 13 years.
As he prepares for the kick-off to the next stage of the crusade with a Scottish Cup-tie against Buckie Thistle at Parkhead on Sunday afternoon, Rodgers reflected on the first five months in his second coming.
The Irishman said: “I think the consistency is the main one. I’ve been absolutely delighted to work with the players. They’re good guys.
“We lost some very important players and obviously a lot of younger players who came in will take a bit of time to adapt, but some of those have started to emerge.
“If you look at the likes of Liam Scales – he’s not a young player, of course, but he came into the team and has done great.
“Paulo Bernardo in this last period has settled in very well, but that’s how long it can sometimes take for a young player coming from a different country, a different culture and different expectations, so it’s been great to see the likes of them coming through.”
RISE AND SHINE…Liam Scales demonstrates his aerial prowess in Celtic’s 3-0 win over St Mirren in Paisley as the champions kick off 2024 on January 2.
After back-to-back losses to Kilmarnock and Hearts, the champions steadied the ship with 12 points from their next four Premiership outings against Livingston (2-0), Dundee (3-0), Rangers (2-1) and St Mirren (3-0) to maintain their eight-point advantage at the top over their nearest challengers from Ibrox who have two games in hand.
Rodgers, speaking to Celtic TV
, continued: “I think the break came at a good time. We had obviously found some consistency in performances and results which was great and a really nice way to go into the break.
“So, just having that little chance to recharge and reset, we’re all really excited about our first Scottish Cup game and the remainder of the season.
“Coming off the back of December and those last four performances, these are the levels we need to be at consistently.
“When you’re at Celtic, you move into the second part of the season and you’re heading towards the business end, as well, but there’s still such a long way to go in the season.
“But I think there’s a sense that we’ll be stronger and, hopefully, more consistent.”
WHAT A BELTER…Paulo Bernardo thunders in the opener in the 2-1 derby triumph on December 30.
Rodgers added: “We saw that in the last four games – we’ve been much more like what we’ve been.
“For me, it’s just that consistency and mentality and that will hopefully spread into the performance level.
“We’ve had some really good performances – Atletico Madrid at home in the Champions League, Aberdeen at home when we were really clinical, but we hope in the second part of the season we can continue to grow and develop the mindset of the players and the team.
“We are looking to have a really exciting second part of the season.”
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