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

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