In recent weeks, Tom Rogic’s fitness levels have been increasing after being eased in by Celtic.
After his injury picked up on international duty, Celtic had been coping tremendously well in his absence. Ryan Christie was performing to help Celtic’s attacking flair, and the Hoops were flying domestically as they built up a 13-point gap.
But it would be easy to get frustrated at Rogic’s lack of game-time in recent weeks. Celtic have been stuttering against the likes of Livingston and Hibernian since their Rangers success, and the gap has been chopped down to nine points.
It’s easy to look on and question whether Lennon features his strongest team regularly. Rogic didn’t start the win over Aberdeen or the drab Easter Road stalemate on Sunday.
But, regarding Rogic, Celtic have made the right decision in not rushing him back in.
That’s because with Christie out for the season, there is no replacement for the Aussie. Rarely do both Christie and Rogic play in the same side, with Lennon and Brendan Rodgers before him tending to go with one over the other.
But if Celtic force Rogic to play too much too soon, we could actually be left with neither. We’re at a delicate stage in our season, and the goal should be to make sure everyone is at their peak for the Scottish Cup final. Of course, wrapping up the league as soon as possible is also essential, but we should have the players to do that over the course of four games.
Taking all precautions
Can you truly blame Lennon for not starting Rogic on Sunday? It makes more sense to take every precaution necessary ahead of the cup final. If Lennon didn’t feel that Rogic could play the majority of the match, then it’s not worth risking. And you would still have expected our starting XI to win that match anyway.
He’ll surely start in some of the bigger games towards the end of the season. Pitching up at Pittodrie, Ibrox, and Hampden without Christie and Rogic would be too daring.
Callum McGregor would perhaps be next to try the number 10 spot, with both Olivier Ntcham and Scott Brown behind him. But that’s not been McGregor’s focus this season, with Rogic and Christie more used to playing that role.
Making sure Rogic is 100% match-fit is the number one priority. He has to be fit for the Scottish Cup final, and Celtic should have one eye on that when managing him.
Losing Christie has meant that we have to be extra careful. Yes, it can be frustrating not seeing him in the starting line-up. Yes, only getting half an hour here and there can also be annoying when he’s already shown he can play for an hour.
But Celtic are right to take extra care. If anything happens to Rogic between now and next month it’s a massive blow. Celtic are right to ease him in – it’s the players who started on Sunday that should’ve done better.