STEPHEN WELSH has pledged his immediate future to Celtic by agreeing a four-year deal.

The 21-year-old defender has been at the club over a decade and ex-boss Neil lennon gve him his debut in a 4-1 win over Hamilton Accies at New Douglas Park in February last season.

Welsh played right-back that afternoon, but has moved into central defence in recent months with the club looking for a settled partnership after the injury woes of Christopher Jullien and the lack of form by Shane Duffy.

The youngster, who has now settled in alongside Kristoffer Ajer, is delighted to have put pen to paper and told Celtic TV: “Playing next to big Kris and having Jonjoe Kenny next to you, as well, helps. They’re experienced players. Kris has played with Norway at a high level and Jonjoe’s played in the Premier League, so it makes it very easy when you’re playing with players of that calibre.

ON THE BALL…Stephen Welsh in action in the 4-0 win over St Mirren in Paisley this season.

“I think I’ve improved on the ball. As a centre-half at Celtic, you need to be very good at this aspect of the game. We’ve usually got most of it, especially at Celtic Park when teams are coming and making it difficult, so you need to be good on it.

“There’s been a big improvement in my forward passing and just my all-round game. Defenders need to be concentrating when we’re attacking all the time.”

Welsh added: “Of course, it’s been disappointing for the team and club, but I’ve managed to get a consistent run of games after the Christmas period.

“It’s now about playing well until the end of the season.

“I haven’t played a lot of games and want to play 50 or 100 like the other boys who have come through the academy.”

Welsh will almost certainly team up again with Ajer when the holders take on Steven Gerrard’s side at Ibrox in the Scottish Cup fourth round encounter on Sunday with a 3pm kick-off.


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