Celtic defender Jozo Simunovic has said he feels “good” playing under Neil Lennon, and has suggested that it wasn’t the same towards the end of Brendan Rodgers’ era.
This season, Simunivic has played 10 of a possible 11 matches under Lennon (Transfermarkt). He’s unfortunately been injured for the rest, but the Celtic manager showed real faith to bring him back in and play him in all three matches since the return from the winter break.
Since then, he’s struggled to get back into form. Against both Partick Thistle and Ross County, Simunovic’s decision-making and positioning have left a lot to be desired. It shows the work that he’ll need to put in before he claims a regular place once again.
But for now, the centre-back has praised his manager for putting his trust in him. Speaking in the Daily Record, here’s what he had to say:
“I felt good playing for Neil, although it’s always easy to put your faith in the only fit centre-half! At the end with Brendan it was a completely different story for me.
“But what can you do? I’m here, I’m a Celtic’s player, not Brendan’s player. So I just kept going and I was kind of expecting a time would come that Brendan would go – he’d had offers in the past before Leicester came in to take him away.
“But now it’s a new page for me with a new manager and I’m not thinking about Brendan’s era any more. I had to be patient. That was the key for me and for other players in the same situation.”
Rodgers gave Simunovic his opportunities too
In fairness to Rodgers, he did give Simunovic plenty of game-time too. He played in eight out of the 11 European matches that he was fit enough to play in last season. In addition to that, he played a total of 20 matches before Lennon came in (Transfermarkt).
So even though you can accuse Rodgers of plenty of things, you can’t say he wasn’t prepared to give Simunovic games when he was available.
It was also the case that Rodgers had the likes of Filip Benkovic and Dedryck Boyata available to him too. Both men have proven themselves to be a higher calibre of defender then Simunovic.
Regardless, he’s now playing regularly under Lennon, and that’s a massive plus for him. He’s managing to get himself some game-time alongside Christopher Jullien, but even then it won’t last unless he improves his performance-levels.
Our number one partnership should still be Jullien and Kristoffer Ajer. Despite their faults, they’re still far and away the highest quality of centre-back we currently have. Simunovic has to show that he can perform to that standard, and he’s yet to do so.
If recent matches are anything to go by, however, it’s clear that Lennon is going to give him the chance to prove he can.