JOZO SIMUNOVIC is making up for lost time after eight months of injury hell.
Seven clean sheets in his nine starts since coming back – the most recent of those in Sunday’s 3-0 Betfred Cup Final shut-out win over Aberdeen – indicate the Croatian Under-21 international becoming a key man in Brendan Rodgers’ squad.
Simunovic, who came close to a move to Serie A outfit Torino in the summer, celebrated his first silverware success at the Hoops 16 months after his £3.5million move from Dinamo Zagreb.
He said: “To win that trophy means a lot to me after everything that has happened over the last year. But I’m a professional footballer and injuries happen. That’s normal. I accepted that and I have worked hard to improve.
“This year has been up and down for me. It has been turbulent. But I just accept that. It was part of my career. The most important thing now is that I am playing games and winning trophies with Celtic.
“I feel at home now, with the fans and everybody at the club. They’ve supported me. There is a lot of positive energy between the fans and the players and that’ s important.
“It was an amazing feeling to win a trophy. It’s been a couple of years since we held that trophy, but it’s back home.”
Dovetailing with Dane Erik Sviatchenko, Simunovic has brought a stability to the centre of the defence. Since he returned to the side, the Hoops have conceded four goals, two of those by Lionel Messi.
The 22-year-old cultured performer added: “It’s a good partnership that is developing between myself and Erik – the clean sheets are always pleasing. We have shown our qualities and it’s good to play next to him.
“We haven’t lost a goal in the Scottish game for a long time, but that shows we are a team.
“The clean sheet is part of the bigger picture, which is built on hard work.”