STUART ARMSTRONG has thanked Brendan Rodgers for guiding him towards his Scotland international breakthrough.
The in-form Celtic midfielder is standing by to make his debut after being called into Gordon Strachan’s squad for the friendly with Canada at Easter Road and the crucial World Cup qualifier against Slovenia at Hampden.
Armstrong, 24, could fulfil a lifelong ambition and make his first appearance for the senior Scotland side, having previously played for the Under-19s and 21s.
The former Dundee United player has been rejuvenated since the summer arrival of Rodgers and his sweet strike against Sevco Rangers at the weekend was his 11th of an impressive campaign.
Armstrong said: “We had the initial conversation at the start of the season and how the manager wanted me to go about my business at Celtic.
“That really spurred me on and gave me a great platform and opportunity to work my way into the side and play in my favoured position.
“I owe him a lot for reigniting my career at Celtic.
“I had been named in the Scotland squad a couple of times, first at Dundee United and then at the start of my first full season at Celtic, but I got an injury so that was a bit of a disappointing time.
“It was very tough to take as I have never been capped before and it was a great honour to be called up, so to decline with an injury was very disappointing.
“It was a bit up and down after that, but since the gaffer has come in he has revitalised my career.
“He moved me into the middle and I have built on that in training, working very hard in training and contributing in games with goals and assists.
“It’s been a good season of progress, so it’s been very nice to be rewarded with a Scotland call-up.
”I’m very happy. It’s a proud moment for me and my family. My brother and my dad and my step-mum all got in touch which was good, saying they were delighted for me and proud.
“The Celtic boys in the squad sent messages of congratulations and a few other boys, including Andy Robertson, who I played with at Dundee United, texted me, as well.
“It will be great to catch up with him as I haven’t seen him for some time, along with some other old faces in squad.
“I’m really pleased about it and very excited about meeting up with the rest of the squad.”
The Scots will prepare for the World Cup qualifier against Slovenia a week on Sunday with a warm-up match against the Canadians on the Wednesday.
A SPOTLIGHT ON THE BOSS
When Brendan Rodgers was first announced as the new Celtic manager in May 2016, it was fair to say that the entire Celtic support was delighted. His much discussed Liverpool managerial career and been a series of incredible highs and some real disappointments and his side failing to win the Premier League was something that his side never really recovered from. Looking back Liverpool fans should realise that Brendan was the manager that came closest to ending their long barren spell of league success.
That season, Rodgers and his team hardly put a foot wrong, until that famous Steven Gerrard slip that handed Chelsea a crucial win that meant Manchester City and not Liverpool would go on to win the Premiership. Liverpool’s loss eventually turned out to be Celtic’s gain.
So, we know all about Rodgers’ stint at Liverpool but what was he doing before that?
Rodgers was, in fact, a footballer before he went into management and an unfortunate discovery of a genetic knee condition very early on in his career forced him to retire from playing.
His upbringing in Northern Ireland led to him supporting Celtic from an early age. He was rated highly as a young player, representing his country at schoolboy level. He had a good career ahead of him, or so it appeared. Unfortunately for Rodgers, at the age of 20 a knee condition meant he could not play and train on a regular basis, so he kept playing non-league football until he made the full transition into management.
After being forced to retire, he was committed to remaining in football and focused all of his energy on becoming a coach and manager. He got a job at Reading looking after their youth team and quickly started to impress people with his talents at such an early management age. His skills had been noted across the Premiership and resulted in Mourinho inviting him to work at Chelsea to develop their youth team.
Working closely with the self-titled ‘Special One’, Rodgers again continued to impress people across the football management world. Still only 35, he took up the management role at Watford, where he had a shaky start but recovered their season to guide them out of the relegation zone up into 13th position.
His former club Reading then approached him to take on their vacant management role that summer in 2009. The start to his management role at Reading didn’t go to plan, and by December, he left the club by mutual consent. Despite this set-back in his career, at the end of the season, he was offered the top job at Swansea.
He led his Swansea side to the Championship Playoffs, where a certain Scott Sinclair scored a hat-trick to take Swansea up into the Premier League!
He continued to impress with his managerial skills in the Premiership, where a string of great performances assured them another season in the Premier League, against the bookmakers’ odds. In June 2012, Premiership giants Liverpool came calling and he made a move to take charge of one of the giants of English football, before moving to Celtic in 2016.
His start at Celtic has been phenomenal, and there is strong belief that Rodgers could become a managerial legend with his record-breaking start.