One of the things Ange was happy to talk about yesterday was the form of Tom Rogic. Of all the players who have played a big role at the club in the last few years, Tom might be the most under-rated and under-appreciated. He was one of the guys many of us would have gladly seen go at the end of last season. That was before we knew who the manager would be.
You always got the distinct impression that if someone was going to make Rogic what he has always threatened to be but never quite succeeded at – an indispensable member of the team – then it was going to be Ange, a manager who knows as well as anyone what his strengths are as a player, a manager who fully trusts him to deliver.
Rogic has drifted in and out of contention at Celtic since he was signed.
He has had spells where he looked as if he should never be out of the team and he’s had others where he vanished for months at a time and people barely noticed it. He had gained a reputation as one of those players who can never complete a 90 minutes of football two games in a row.
Brendan loved him. For the two full seasons Rodgers was there, Rogic looked like a regular. He played frequently and scored goals. He specialised in big matches. But Lennon could never quite get there with him, partly because Lennon couldn’t ever get him fit.
Which to me is an unpardonable scandal.
Rogic’s other problem was the position he played in. Unless you were a team playing with a specific system or style, there really was nowhere in it for a guy who was pretty much a one note footballer, a guy who could only play in a single role.
Watching Rogic recently has been like watching a different player. He’s fitter, more aggressive, he runs around more and covers ground like we’ve never seen him do. He’s developing new facets to his game; I had given up on that.
Rogic is one of the reasons the manager’s new style has started to gel; of all the players in the squad, he would have faced one of the hardest adaptation periods because it necessitated changing his style and even gaining that extra level of fitness which has eluded him so far. But give credit where it’s due; he has knuckled down and done the job.
In 2019-20, he made 22 appearances for Celtic in all competitions. In 2020-21, he made 25. This season already he’s made 21.
He hasn’t produced the goals we’d all like to see – a single strike in that period isn’t exactly earth shattering – and he has a long way to go to get to the heights of his best campaigns for us, but those things will come eventually too as he moves forward as part of this team. He needs to re-add the goals to his game, but he’s added so much else already that he’s more than compensated for the lack of them. He is one of our most improved footballers.
All the credit for that must go to the manager, who has had faith and has seen that faith repaid. Tom Rogic is now what he’s always been on the verge of being; a vital cog in the wheel. One of Scotland’s best midfielders has gotten better under Ange.
That’s what the truly good managers do, after all.