Experienced Toure has been a mentor figure for Belgian
KOLO Toure’s arrival at Celtic last summer looked certain to bring an end to Dedryck Boyata’s disappointing spell at Parkhead.
The centre half had failed to convince after being signed from Manchester City the previous year and had not been sighted since being substituted in the first half of the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Rangers at Hampden in April.
With Brendan Rodgers having succeeded Ronny Deila, the manager who bought him, and Jozo Simunovic, Erik Sviatchenko and Toure all moving ahead of him in the pecking order, it seemed inevitable that he would depart.
However, the presence of the Ivory Coast internationalist in Glasgow this season has actually had the opposite effect and helped to resurrect the defender’s faltering career.
Boyata was close friends with Toure from their time together at City and was delighted when he discovered that they would be reunited even though he knew it might limit his first team opportunities. With good reason. The vastly-experienced player has been a source of constant advice, encouragement and support during a season in which he has hardly featured.
The former Arsenal, Liverpool and City man’s unstinting faith in his ability has been justified in the past five days. Boyata helped Celtic to keep a clean sheet in their Scottish Cup game against Albion Rovers on Sunday and then scored the winner in their Ladbrokes Premiership triumph against St. Johnstone on Wednesday night.
As Boyata reflected on his annus horribilis and expressed hope he could remain involved in the second half of the 2016/17 campaign at Celtic Park yesterday, his admiration of and gratitude towards Toure were obvious.
“It has been a very difficult time from the beginning of the season because I was injured,” he said. “Coming back from injury, I had to try and get my fitness back, try and get my legs back and try and get my play back too.
“As a football player, it is very hard. When you don’t play you try to blame people and find reasons why things aren’t going well. But nobody has heard me say any bad things about the manager or what was happening.
“All I have been doing is working hard.
“I have talked to people who have been in this kind of position before. They have just told me ‘when your chance comes take it’. That is all I have been thinking about. This week has been a big week.”
Boyata added: “I am a grown man. I don’t really need anyone. But on Wednesday night when I scored people came up to me and told me that I deserved it because they have seen me working hard. We have a very good team, a good group.
“When you are down you always have players who try to rally around you. Players like Kolo. Kolo is a very good person, a very important person in my life. Maybe you don’t know, but when I was at City he was the one who took care of me. I have played games with him before.
“When I was down he was always telling me ‘don’t worry, you’ve just got to wait for your chance, when it comes just take it’. So that was what I have done.
“Kolo is a special person for me and he knows it because I have told him. The relationship with him has been deep for a long time. When he came in I was the first one to hug him. You need this kind of person around you just to remind you that it is not finished.”
Rodgers revealed that he would like Toure – who has fallen out of the Celtic first team in recent weeks as Simunovic and Sviatchenko have excelled – to take on a coaching role after he retires from playing when the Scottish champions were in Dubai on a warm-weather training stint earlier this month. Boyata believes his team mate will flourish when he makes the transition.
“The good thing about Kolo is he is a person with a very good spirit,” he said. “He doesn’t like to lose. Any player will tell you if Kolo loses in training it is a very bad day for everybody. When you talk about football you can see he has a lot of knowledge. I have no doubt about him being a coach.”
Koloisgoodperson, averyimportant personinmylife. Maybeyoudon’tknow, butwhenIwasatCity hetookcareofme