TOM ROGIC is a born-again Celt – thanks to the belief shown in him by Ange Postecoglou.
That’s the firm verdict of former Hoops striker Scott McDonald who reckons previous boss Neil Lennon never really trusted the 29-year-old playmaker.
A rejuvenated Rogic has become a key performer once again following the arrival of his former Australian international gaffer who had no hesitation in making him a pivotal figure in his plans to revamp the fortunes of a club after a wretched and barren campaign.
The lavishly-talented individual, mesmerising on his day, was originally brought to Glasgow from Central Coast Mariners by Lennon nine years ago and has won 15 honours in that time which also included a loan period back to Oz with Melbourne Victory.
Despite being a bit-part player for a couple of the previous campaigns, the easy-on-the-eye performer buckled down and is now reaping the rewards under the guidance of Postecoglou.
Fellow-Aussie McDonald, who is turning out for Gold Coast Knights these days, is not surprised the manager and the artiste are a partnership made in Paradise.
“He’s a player who needs full backing from his coach. That gives him the confidence and freedom to go and be himself. You don’t get the best out of Rogic if you don’t let him be him.
“Because of the relationship he had before with Ange, he also knows where the line is with him.
“He knows what his manager wants and needs. That conversation would have been clear at the start when Ange got there
BY THE LEFT…Tom Rogic sweeps in the opener in the 3-0 win over Dundee United at Tannadice with former Celt Charlie Mulgrew too late to intervene.
“He’d have told Tom: ‘You’re one of the best players here, I believe in you, so get back to your best.’ And he has done that.
“He has been tremendous for Celtic this season. It’s up to him now to keep that consistency going.
“We saw it in the Brendan Rodgers era when he was magnificent for a spell. And this season, he’s been a driving force, along with Kyogo Furuhashi, in terms of keeping them within reach of Rangers at the top of the table.”
In the first two terms after the Irishman replaced Ronny Deila in May 2016, Rogic made 75 appearances and collected 20 goals, including the never-to-be-forgotten stoppage-time Scottish Cup Final winner against Aberdeen at Hampden on May 27 2017.
In the final two years under Lennon, the player turned out 47 times and netted five strikes. He has already had 25 outings under Postecoglou and claimed three goals.
“The relationship with previous managers didn’t quite work for him. I don’t think Neil ever really trusted Tom.“You get that in football, it doesn’t mean anyone’s right or wrong. Tom just never fitted in under Neil.
“But Brendan told Tom right away that he was his No.10, his attacking midfielder who would make things happen.
“For two and a half seasons under him, he was unplayable. And he’s starting to get back to that level now. Tom’s physically stronger than other players in the Scottish game. Teams can’t deal with his physicality.
“He’s not what you’d normally get in a No.10. It’s usually quick, nimble players who are short, sharp and dynamic.
THAT’S MY BHOY…a grinning Brendan Rodgers greets Tom Rogic after his winner against Motherwell at Fir Park on December 3 2016.
“But Tom likes to actually hit you. All of a sudden, you’re gone – he’s very good at that.
“He wants tight situations on the pitch. Not many players in Scotland are like that. He’s happy in that environment because he grew up playing futsal.
“But the most impressive thing is that he’s now withstanding the pace of the game. He’s lasting 90 minutes when Ange needs him.
“For a long time, he was called the 60-minute man. He’s now staying in games for Celtic. He will say that’s all down to Ange.”
McDonald, who claimed 64 goals in 128 appearances for the Hoops in his two and a half seasons after Gordon Strachan had paid £700,000 to buy him from Motherwell in July 2007, added: “Ange has come in at the perfect time for Tom.
“His Celtic career was nearly gone by the wayside. He almost went to the Middle East.
“But all credit to Tom, he could have taken the money because he was offered a huge deal there.
“But he wants to play football and he’s happy at Celtic.
“He didn’t want to just take a payday. He still fancied challenging himself at a good level.
“That tells you enough about his character and what he’s about.”