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.”