VERSATILE Israeli international defender Hatem Abd Elhamed is hoping to get the nod from Neil Lennon to face Ferencvaros in the Champions League second tound knock-out qualifier at Parkhead on Wednesday night.
The right-back was back on the substitutes’ bench for yesterday’s 1-0 victory over Dundee United at Tannadice after playing in the 6-0 win over FR Reykjavik in Glasgow on Tuesday evening.
Elhamed is trying to make up for lost time this season and is ready to fight Jeremie Frimpong for the No.2 position – and he admitted he welcomes the challenge of the Dutch teen ace.
The former Hapoel Be’er Sheva back-four operator was injured in the Hoops’ historic 2-1 triumph over Lazio in Rome – the club’s first win on Italian soil in 13 attempts – back in November and his return from a lengthy spell on the sidelines lasted just nine minutes on March 7 before the coronavirus pandemic.
He came on as a late substitute in the 5-0 success against St Mirren and played his part in the final goal of the restricted campaign when he was bowled over to earn the side a late penalty-kick which was calmly dispatched by Callum McGregor.
Football went into cold storage in mid-March before Neil Lennon’s men were deservedly awarded their ninth successive title by the SPFL hierarchy in May.
Elhamed, speaking to the Sunday Post, said: “Before Reykjavik, I went almost 10 months without a start!
“When I came to Celtic, I got off to a very good start, and for three months I was happy. But then came a bit of bad luck because I got a groin injury against Lazio.
“Then when I came back for a few minutes, it turned out to be the last game before the shutdown.
“So, it was very strange for me because I’d never had such a long time out without being able to play football.
“I just tried to focus on training to get myself fit, and then waiting for my chance to come.
“That came with 30 minutes against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park and that was enough to get me ready for the start in the Champions League against Reykjavik.
“It was a good feeling for me, and gave me confidence to go again and show my best.”
Looking at the fight for a first-team place, Elhamed admitted: “Jeremie is a fantastic player. He’s very young and talented.
“I look at the competition as a very positive thing for the players to be at their best.
“I want to play, Jeremie wants to play. We both do our best for the club, to help the team to win and we need to be positive and always do our best.
“The manager has told me that I am an experienced player and I have many qualities that he likes.
“I know he trusts me in the big games and on the big nights, and I am happy that I show him again and again that I deserve his trust.
“I am looking forward to keeping myself fit and to playing well.”
Elhamed is determined to help the Hoops reach the money-spinning group stages of Europe’s elite tournament after two conescutive failures and added: “To play on that stage would achieve my biggest dream because it is something I have never done.
“It would mean testing yourself against the world’s best players and would be so exciting. Before I came here, I came so close with my old team, Hapoel Be’er Sheva.
“We reached the play-offs and it was a very close one. We won 2-1 at home to Maribor, but lost the away game 1-0, so we went out on away goals.
“Now, I want it so much. It would be fantastic to be in the group stages.”