Armstrong glad to kick off resurgence in Rodgers’ high-energy style
BRENDAN RODGERS has successfully resurrected the career of James Forrest, a player who had badly lost his way and was set to depart Parkhead, since taking over as Celtic manager in the summer. Can he now do the same with Stuart Armstrong?
The midfielder started well at Celtic after signing from Dundee United in January last year. He played and scored in the Europa League last 32 matches against Inter Milan.
After that, though, he regressed. The 24-year-old dropped out of the first team and on the rare occasions that he did feature, often out of position, he failed to convince.
Armstrong hasn’t been a regular starter under Rodgers this season, but when he has played, as was certainly the case in the 4-0- win over Ross County at the Global Energy Arena on Wednesday night, he has looked far more like his former self.
The Inverness-born player capped an assured individual display in Dingwall with a goal six minutes from time that secured a hard-fought victory and sent Celtic seven points clear at the top.
Many Celtic supporters would like to see the Scot given an extended run alongside captain Scott Brown ahead of Nir Bitton, whose form has often left much to be desired in recent weeks.
He certainly believes he has embraced the high-pressing game which Rodgers wants his team to play and is hopeful he has done enough to get the nod for the league meeting with second-placed Aberdeen at Pittodrie tomorrow.
“I am enjoying it,” said Armstrong. “I had a good chat with the manager at the start of the season and he told me what he expected. I’ve been training hard to do that.
“He wants to play the high press, he wants a lot of energy and I’m trying to do that.
“I wanted to play well against County and influence the game in an attacking and defensive sense. Hopefully I did that and can play my part against Aberdeen at the weekend. It’s important for me when I get the chance to impress that I help the team in any way I can.”
He added: “It was a very important win, especially with Aberdeen dropping points against Hamilton on Tuesday night. We started well and got the opening goal.
“I don’t know if I can claim an assist for the first. Patrick [Roberts] got the ball and ran 40 yards after it. I was delighted for him and his performance was fantastic. But, of course, I was happy to score too.”
Armstrong has now targeted an away victory over Aberdeen this weekend which would put the Scottish champions 10 points clear at the head of the top-flight table with a game against Partick Thistle in hand.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s in the Champions League or away to Ross County, we approach the game in the same way and prepare the same.
“The focus is now on Saturday and we are aiming to extend our lead. We definitely have the mentality that we want to be relentless.”
TAKING HIS CHANCES: Stuart Armstrong’s recent Celtic performances have been encouraging.