BRENDAN RODGERS insists Stuart Armstrong was NOT axed for Celtic’s Champions League qualifying victory over Linfield because of his contract situation.

The midfielder has yet to agree an extension despite the Hoops boss wanting to tie him down on a long-term contract.

His current deal expires next summer and the 25 year old playmaker has been linked with a string of English top-flight teams.

Armstrong, who has been two-and-a-half years at Parkhead after joining in a £2million double deal along with Gary Mackay-Steven from Dundee United, came on as a late sub and scored in the 4-0 win over the Irish part-timers.

But Rodgers insisted the decision not to start him had nothing to do with the player’s contract talks breaking down.

He said: “There was no correlation. There has been no progress as of yet on the contract.

“I love working with Stuart. If there was any correlation then Scott Brown wouldn’t play, he’s in his last year, as well.

“I’ve got to prepare players for the season and I’m fortunate we have a strong squad.”

Rodgers handed new Bhoy Olivier Ntcham a surprise start and the £4.5million purchase from Manchester City last week looked eager to show his worth while Kundui Benyu, signed from Ipswich Town, also got a late run out.

The Hoops boss said: “It was very important for the new players. Oli has come in and we’re trying to get him game time.

“He had just over an hour and you can see his qualities. Once he gets up to speed, he’ll be a great asset.

“Benny is bright, he wants to go forward.

“It was nice for Stuart to come in and finish well. Scotty Sinclair was back scoring again.

“He maybe wasn’t happy his goal last week wasn’t given to him and Tom’s was a great finish.

“If it wasn’t for Roy Carroll in goal, the scoreline could have been bigger.”


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