Brendan Rodgers insists Dedryck Boyata has a future at Celtic after the forgotten defender returned for the 3-0 William Hill Scottish Cup win against Albion Rovers.
The 26-year-old former Manchester City player, signed in 2015 by former manager Ronny Deila, had only featured once previously this season, against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in November, and was widely believes to be surplus to requirements.
However, he was reinstated due to the suspension of Erik Sviatchenko and had a solid game at Airdirie’s Excelsior stadium as the runaway Ladbrokes Premiership leaders earned themselves a home fifth-round tie against Inverness thanks to goals from Scott Sinclair, Moussa Dembele and Stuart Armstrong.
“I thought Dedryck Boyata looked real quality today,” said the former Liverpool boss, pleased with the “professional” job done on the League One part timers.
“He looked like the player I knew as a really young player at Manchester City.
“I’ve seen him play against Didier Drogba and he was fantastic, strong, aggressive, quick, and kept it simple.
“He hasn’t had a chance to play because of the others who’ve been playing but in the last few weeks in training he has been great and he was really focused – no mistakes, really simple, get on the front foot, win your headers and you can be a player.
“He has all the attributes that I love, He is big, has a good spring. He can defend, he steps forward and defends and he can play.
“The problem in the past is he has made mistakes – you can’t make mistakes and that is concentration.
“But he was very focused and knew this might be his moment.
“He has the shirt, he played well, now stay in the team.”
Rodgers was also pleased with the return of left-back Kieran Tierney, playing for the first time since October after recovering from an ankle and shoulder problem, saying: “Kieran looked like he had not been away. You see how dynamic he is on that side. He and Scott have a great combination when they play and so it was great.”
Rovers boss Darren Young acknowledged the task his side faced against a team unbeaten domestically this season.
He said: “I’m disappointed with the result but happy with the performance from the guys.
“We knew it would be hard and we would be up against it.
“It was backs-to-the-wall stuff and we were just hoping to get a few breaks along the way.
“But Celtic are a quality team. There is a reason why nobody has beaten them this season.
“They keep the ball well and then when you lose it, they are right on top of you to win it back.
“The only thing we can complain about is that when we won the ball, we didn’t keep it well enough.
“But again, they press you so much and make it hard for the players.”