CELTIC central defender Jozo Simunovic has hit back at recurring injury claims and insisted: “I’m no crock.”

The Croatian Under-21 international missed the entire second half of his debut season after arriving in a £3.5million deal from Dinamo Zagreb in August 2015.

A complicated knee injury forced him onto the sidelines and kept him out for eight excruciating months.

It has left some critics doubting the 22-year-old’s fitness and ability to play week in, week out for the champions.

But the cultured centre-half claimed: “Everything is okay.

“I’m still working just on my fitness. I don’t have any problem if someone wants to ask me about my knee because it’s fine now.

“It doesn’t matter what people ask. I know what I feel. And it feels fine. I want to believe in myself.

“It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks; these are my knees, no=one else’s.

“So, it’s difficult to convince people. I know people say my name and everyone says the same thing; ‘He had an operation, maybe the knee is not good’.

“But I KNOW it is good now.”

Simunovic also revealed the unstinting encouragement of the Hoops fans helped carry him through a difficult period.

He said: “You know, at my last club I didn’t have so much support. But here it’s another story.

“All the atmosphere and the fans. It got me through. We also had a bit of a situation with defenders missing last season. I played on and it wasn’t good.

“But the fans got me through games because it’s not the same when you are only training.

“The adrenaline makes a big difference.”

The stopper was poised to make a transfer deadline day switch to Torino in August only for the move to collapse.

He added: “I was there, I did everything and then they said they wanted to change something – at the very last moment.

“But the good thing is that I stayed here at Celtic.

“I proved myself, I proved to everybody that’s the best thing for me in my career now.

“I always believe things happen for a reason. It was fate.

”Thank God everything has been good in this part of the season.

“I am looking forward now. I am really happy, I am really enjoying it. It has not been easy sometimes, but that is football life.

“It’s all behind me now.

“I had a bad start at the club, but now I’m okay and I’m playing nearly every game.

“That’s the most important thing.”

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