Stephen Welsh is looking forward to “kicking on” under Brendan Rodgers after coming in from the cold under the new manager to sign a four-year deal with Celtic.
The 23-year-old defender’s previous contract was due to expire at the end of this season and it looked like his time with his boyhood club might be nearing an end when he fell out of favour under previous boss Ange Postecoglou.
However, academy graduate Welsh, who has been linked with moves away from Parkhead in recent transfer windows, made his first appearance in 10 months when he came on as a substitute for the injured Cameron Carter-Vickers in Sunday’s 3-1 cinch Premiership win over Aberdeen.
And, having impressed Rodgers since he returned to Celtic as manager earlier this summer, the homegrown centre-back has earned a long-term extension until 2027.
“Signing a new contract for the club that I’ve been brought up on and have supported my whole life was, for me, an easy decision,” Welsh told Celtic TV after the deal was announced on Friday.
“It’s time for me to kick on now and hopefully I can have a few good seasons. I want to keep improving and continue to play as many games as I can, especially with the manager in now. He’s been massive for me since he’s come in.
“He’s one of the main reasons that I want to be at the club and I’m just looking forward to starting the season properly and going for it.”
Welsh, who has made 53 appearances for Celtic since his debut in February 2020, will compete with Carter-Vickers and new signings Maik Nawrocki and Gustaf Lagerbielke for a centre-back berth as he bids to follow the lead of fellow academy graduates Callum McGregor and James Forrest by establishing himself as a regular starter.
“At a club of this stature, competition for places is going to be everywhere, all over the pitch,” he said. “So for me it’s natural to keep working hard, keep improving and show that the manager can trust me to go in and play.
“Thankfully he’s done that so far and now we’ll look ahead to the season and hopefully more opportunities to come.
“The boys will still look to Cal and Jamesy. They’re still the main two lads who have been there and done it and I’m still trying to work towards a level so that I can get to that.
“But for the new boys coming in, it’s just about realising the pressure that comes with every single game and every single training session. You need to perform to the highest level and win every game.
“Over the past few years we’ve done that really well and the new signings coming in have adapted to that really well, so I think we’ve got good things ahead for us.
“To be at Celtic is all I can ask for and I will give 100 per cent to the club and hopefully do everyone proud.”