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‘NOT ALWAYS SMOOTH,’ ARMSTRONG OPENS UP ON £7m EXIT

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STUART ARMSTRONG has opened up on the vast contrasts of aiming for silverware with Celtic and scrapping for survival at Southampton.

The Scotland international midfielder arrived from Dundee United in a £2million double deal alongside Gary Mackay-Steven from Dundee United in the January 2015 transfer window.

Armstrong, 27, quit the Hoops in a £7million switch for the south coast club in June last year, but has struggled for game-time since Ralph Hasenhuttl replaced the sacked Mark Hughes who had bought the Inverness-born player.

After being on the sidelines, the playmaker has been brought back into the Austrian’s plans – and ex-Hoops gaffer Brendan Rodgers unwittingly played a role in his return to the first team.

Armstrong came on a substitute with the Saints losing 7-0 at home to Leicester City on their way to an embarrassing 9-0 thrashing three weeks ago.

He has started the last two games – defeats from Manchester City and Everton – as the team went into the international break second bottom of the Premier League just one point above Norwich City.

The pressure is on and Armstrong, speaking to the Evening Times, admitted: “It’s been an interesting journey for me so far, not always smooth.

“At Celtic, it was always more dominant, you have a lot more possession. Your aim there is to win the league and the Cups.

“In the Premier League, your ambition is to finish as high as possible.

“So, it’s different challenges and different mentality.”

Armstrong can take his mind of battling relegation from the English top flight as he focuses on playing for Scotland in the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Cyprus in Nicosia tomorrow afternoon and Kazakhstan at Hamppden on Tuesday night.

The games are meaningless in terms of qualification for next summer’s Finals – Belgium and Russia breezed through the group beating the Scots home and away – but the encounters will give some pointers to manager Steve Clarke before next year’s play-off confrontations where the country will still have the opportunity to get to their first major tournament since the World Cup in France in 1998.

Armstrong added: “We have two big games in March, but we’re not thinking about that right now. It’s about building on that San Marino performance and making sure these next two games are positive, that we get points from them and finish as high in the group as possible.

“Everyone thrives on good performances and winning games. That attracts positivity among supporters.”

 

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