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Armstrong goes from supporting role to Celtic star

Glasgow (AFP) – Brendan Rodgers says Stuart Armstrong is a shining example for all the players in his squad for the way the midfielder has rejuvenated his Celtic career.

The 24-year-old enjoyed a good start to his time at Celtic Park after signing from Dundee United in February 2015, but then a dip in form saw him endure a torrid time last season under former manager Ronny Deila.

Following the arrival of Rodgers in the summer, Armstrong drifted in and out of the squad and it appeared as if his time at Celtic could be coming to a close.

However, the midfielder has now started the past 12 matches and has been a pivotal part of the side that has won 11 league matches in a row to hold an 11-point lead over Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premiership.

His rebirth at Celtic was complete on Saturday when he was handed the captain’s armband in the absence of the suspended Scott Brown for the win against Dundee.

Brown will return for the match against Partick Thistle on Tuesday but Rodgers says handing Armstrong the temporary captaincy was reward for his efforts this season

“I think it was a symbol for Stuart and the other players,” Celtic manager Rodgers said.

“This was a guy who was one of the real stand-out players I felt when I was assessing the squad, yet when he came back in after the summer it probably was in doubt whether he would play for me. Early in the season, he wasn’t even in a couple of my squads.

“But guys like him epitomise really how I work. If they can adapt to how I want to work and the concepts, they can fly. It’s the same with Craig Gordon and guys like that. If they understand how we want to work and they are prepared to work then they get their reward.

“Stu has been a great symbol of that. If you look at him now he’s outstanding in everything he does — his pressing first and foremost, his positioning and his quality on the ball.

“He plays with that pause in the game I like. As midfielder player you need to be able to put your foot on the ball, make the right choices, make the right passes but he also has that dynamic ability to break forward.

“He’s a great symbol of the spirit of the team and what learning and coaching is about.”

Rodgers made five changes to his side for the win against Dundee and is likely to involve more of the fringe players against Thistle as Celtic cope with a busy festive fixture list before a three-week winter break at the start of January.

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