FORMER Celtic goal hero Chris Sutton has told Brendan Rodgers’ players to buckle in for a bumpy ride all the way to the end of the year.
The challenges will come thick and fast on the domestic and European fronts with 14 games set to push the Hoops resources to the limit.
Sutton looks at South Korean frontman Oh Hyeon-gyu as an illustrutation of what can be achieved with a bit of never-say-die spirit, determination and conviction.
The January arrival from Suwon Bluewings had failed to score a solitary goal this season – admittedly without too much game-time – until he almost burst the net with the winner against St Mirren at Parkhead in midweek.
OH, WHAT A BEAUTY…stiker Hyeon-gyu thumps in the winner against St Mirren.
The one-time England international forward pointed out: “The summer signings and the guys on the fringes will need to step up in the next few weeks, because if the Celtic squad think it’s been hectic up until now, they haven’t seen anything yet.
“Celtic have played 15 games so far this season. They’ve got another 14 to go until the winter break in less than two months.
“I don’t want to hear any excuses about being tired. This is a vital part of the season and there’s no room for whinging. The same goes about game time.
“These fringe players will get opportunities in the coming weeks and it’s up for them to grab them.
“Oh Hyeon-gyu is a good example. He took his chance against St Mirren having barely had a sniff all season.
“I said last week I had doubts whether Brendan Rodgers fancied him, but he got thrown in in midweek and he produced the goods.
“Oh has got a bit about him. He’s not up to the same level as Giorgos Giakoumakis, but he has qualities and he’s shown a good attitude.
“I’ve watched him warm up when he’s been on the bench and he pushes himself like a lunatic. He’s clearly chomping at the bit to make an impression and he managed to do that the other night.”
CAPITAL PUNISHMENT…Oh Hyeon-gyu battles for a high ball in the goalless draw against Hibs at Easter Road.
Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “It was needed as Kyogo is carrying too big a burden right now and you could say the same about Matt O’Riley. The likes of David Turnbull have to force their way into the manager’s thinking.
“Same goes for Paulo Bernardo. He played well coming on against Atletico Madrid, but apparently that 80-odd minutes burst him for a week as he had to come off at Easter Road and wasn’t seen against St Mirren.
“That seems strange to me, but there are other puzzling issues. Like, what’s happened to Gustaf Lagerbielke? Where is Malik Nawrocki? Both are supposedly fit but nowhere near the squad, with Lagerbielke keeping Starfelt out of the Sweden team yet not getting stripped for Celtic.
“It just seems that 12 months on, some of the players are not at the level yet that Rodgers will want. Luis Palma has shown encouraging signs, but he’s not a Jota. Yang has skills, but is he a better replacement than Haksabanovic? Not yet.”
Sutton added: “Brendan Rodgers has set them a challenge – and given them a deadline. He hinted this week he is going to clear the decks somewhat in January as he feels his squad is too big.
“I would also suggest that while he has plenty of numbers, he’s lacking in strength in depth. You only have to go back 12 months and look at the Celtic squad. It was arguably stronger.
HEADING FOR A FALL…midfield ace Reo Hatate is tackled by fellow-Japanese Yutaro Oda in Celtic’s 4-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle.
“This time last year, Ange Postecoglou could have fielded a team that included Jota, Aaron Mooy, Josip Juranovic, Carl Starfelt, Giorgos Giakoumakis and Sead Haksabanovic.
“They have all left but then you chuck in the injured Reo Hatate and Liel Abada – plus Cameron Carter-Vickers, who was left out the other night – and that’s nearly an entire starting 11.
“There were times when Postecoglou could make four or five subs and it would actually strengthen the side.
“At the moment, I get the sense Rodgers is making changes in games and hoping the replacements make an impact rather than expecting it.”
Rodgers is expected to utilise some fringe players in Dingwall today with Oh desperate to get a start in his efforts to add to his goal tally.
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