JOSIP JURANOVIC admits he has been all smiles since he joined Celtic in the summer.
The Croatian international right-back, however, admitted to some scepticism as he agreed a £2.5million switch from Legia Warsaw in the summer.
Juranovic was moving from a team that had claimed the Polish championship to a side in disarray without a trophy for the first time in 11 years and a monumental squad rebuild facing their new manager, Ange Postecoglou, who had just arrived from J-League outfit Yokohama F Marinos to replace Neil Lennon who had departed in February.
On top of that, long-serving skipper Scott Brown had quit at the end of his contract to join Aberdeen, top scorer Odsonne Edouard was on his way to Crystal Palace and Kristoffer Ajer (Brentford) and Ryan Christie (Bournemouth) were also heading across the border in a Hoops exodus.
ON THE BALL…Josip Juranovic in full flight.
However, Juranovic, currently in Qatar in a pre-World Cup tournament with his international team-mates, has revealed a chat with his Greek-Australian manager dispelled his doubts.
The skilful 26-year-old defender, speaking to Croatian media outlet Dalmacija Danas, said: “Honestly, when I arrived in Glasgow I was a little sceptical, especially since the team won nothing last season.
“However, on the first day, the coach approached me and said: ‘This is a new Celtic, I want you in it’.
“He automatically brought a smile to my face – and since then it hasn’t left my face.
“It paid off, we are first in the league table with three points more than Glasgow Rangers.
ALL SMILES…Josip Juranovic emphasises that he is a happy Bhoy.
“Upon our return from Doha, a big derby awaits us immediately, we are offered the opportunity to go six points clear. So everything is in our hands.
“The city is great, the crowds even better, the team-mates amazing. I’m looking forward to lifting the trophy with Celtic.”
Juranovic was pitched into the side for the first derby of the season at Ibrox in late August for his debut in the unaccustomed left-back slot. The Hoops passed up several chances – most notably a six-yard sitter by Edouard which he tamely screwed wide of the post – before gifting a goal from a corner-kick.
However, it was a different story when the experienced international was in his more suited No.2 slot in the 3-0 win over their Glasgow rivals at Parkhead in February.
Now Juranovic and Co, with the Hoops three points ahead and seven games remaining, will return to Premiership action a week on Sunday with a showdown encounter against Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s outfit in Govan where a victory will go a long way to deciding the destiny of this season’s crown.