STEPHEN WELSH insists he will repay Brendan Rodgers for his faith in his ability after signing a new four-year contract at the champions.

The versatile defender didn’t hesitate in penning the deal which will keep him at Celtic until 2027, at least, and he is determined to “kick on now” in his Hoops career after making his debut in a 4-1 win over Hamilton Accies at New Douglas Park in February 2020.

Welsh answered an SOS from his manager on Sunday when he replaced Cameron Carter-Vickers in the heart of the rearguard after the USA World Cup star had to retire with a hamstring problem.

PARADISE…Stephen Welsh proudly holds aloft his 2027 Celtic shirt after signing extension.

The former academy prospect – now 23 – came on to line up alongside new Bhoy Maik Nawrocki as the Parkhead side won 3-1 to claim three valuable points from a dangerous fixture at Pittodrie.

Looking ahead, Welsh, who has made 53 first-team appearances for Scotland’s title kings, said: “Signing a new contract for the club that I’ve been brought up on and have supported my whole life was an easy decision to stay at the club for another four years, at least.

“It’s time for me to kick on now and, hopefully, I can have a few good seasons.

“I want to keep improving and continue to play as many games as I can, especially with the manager, Brendan Rodgers, in now. He’s been massive for me since he’s come in.

“He’s one of the main reasons that I want to be at the club and I’m just looking forward to starting the season properly and going for it.”

DRIVING FORCE…Brendan Rodgers is assembling his squad for this season’s crusade.

Former Scotland Under-21 captain Welsh, speaking to Celtic TV, continued: “Honestly, you pinch yourself every day going to training. The hard work started when I first came in.

“The pressure of being at Celtic, even when you’re a young kid, is there – the pressure to perform and play for a club this size every week.

“And especially when you get to first-team level, you’re expected to win every week, which is an obvious thing for us. That’s what we want to do.

“But it’s not just about winning, it’s the performance levels for us, as well. That’s what we look to and we’ve got a good mentality in the group, so everyone’s working in the same direction.

“Long may it continue for us and I’m really looking forward to working with the manager and the players that we’re also bringing in.”

CROWNING GLORY…Stephen Welsh and keeper Joe Hart celebrate Celtic’s remarkable 2021/22 title success. Images courtesy Celtic TV.

Carl Starfelt has left for Celta Vigo, but boss Rodgers has signed two new central defenders in Nawrocki and Swede Gustaf Lagerbielke at a combined cost of £7.3 million from Legia Warsaw and Elfsborg respectively and Welsh relishes the battle for places in the top side.

He added: “At a club of this size and stature, competition for places is going to be everywhere, all over the pitch, so, for me, it’s natural to keep working hard, keep improving and show that the manager can trust me to go in and play.

“Thankfully, he’s done that so far and now we’ll look ahead to the season and, hopefully, more opportunities to come.

“To be at Celtic is all I can ask for and I will give 100 per cent to the club and, hopefully, do everyone proud.”

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