One of the most frustrating things about going to Rugby Park is the fact that we have to play on plastic surfaces.
This has led in the past to some of our more injury-prone players not being able to play in them. Jozo Simunovic has been one of the main ones.
Indeed, the former Dinamo Zagreb man has largely avoided the plastic turf since signing for the club. This has been down to injury knocks picked up in his knee. The idea being that the player must be protected from it given the turf’s increased dangers of picking up injuries.
However, last night Celtic were down to the bare bones. With Nir Bitton out, Simunovic was thrown in at Rugby Park, and the centre-back did a fine job of it in Ayrshire too.
He wasn’t the best player on the pitch, but he was solid and composed on the ball. He challenged for the ball with authority and didn’t shirk anything. That’s despite the fact it would’ve been easy for him to play things safe on the plastic.
Simunovic doesn’t need overly-shielded
What it shows is that Simunovic is now able to play on the plastic pitches if necessary. There’s no real overwhelming need to shield him from them if we need to feature him.
Granted, it’s still always ideal to go with Christopher Jullien and Kris Ajer up top, but Simunovic showed he can be an option when we go to places like Kilmarnock.
That’s huge for us. Too often in the past we’ve been short of cover at centre-back because of his inability to play on it. There was almost this idea that he would disintegrate if he even touched it. But that’s clearly not the case.
He was one of our better players last night, and even though there’s rustiness there, there was no major concerns about him.
That of course doesn’t mean he needs to be pushed to start regularly on it. What it means is that he can play for us if we’re lacking in numbers.
If Celtic go to Hamilton, Livingston, or indeed Killie again, Jozo should be an option. Last night was telling – he’s able to play on plastic when necessary.