John Kennedy was delighted to see Filip Twardzik back in action for Celtic’s u-20 side.
The talented midfielder has been out of action for almost 18 months due to a succession of groin and muscle issues.
On Tuesday night it took the 21-year-old less than a minute to grab a goal after replacing Luke Donnelly in the 3-0 win over Hamilton as he takes the first playing steps on the road to recovery.
Kennedy knows more than most about the pain, frustrations and doubts that a long term injury causes and is looking forward to helping Twardzik back towards first team football.
“It was great to see Filip back,” the Celtic coach said. “It’s been a long time since he’s played but it didn’t take him long to make his mark. The goal showed the ability that he has.
“He still has a bit to go in terms of fitness and games wise he’ll need a few to get upto speed but based on his first performance he’s not all that rusty.
“It’s been tough for him, a continuation of different injuries. He has shown a strong mentality to come through that which is all important. In the long run it will maybe serve him well.
“He was in a good place at the time he got injured, he’s probably been in a bad place recently, you don’t want to experience that but sometimes it’s not the worst thing in the world. It makes you realise a lot of things, it lets you develop other aspects of your physique.
“When he came on tonight he made an impact and everyone was delighted for him.”
Kennedy added: “It’s difficult to pinpoint any targets for him, we’re pleased to see him back and want to build on that week by week. Hopefully he can stay fit, get a good run of games and training which will be very important.
“Looking at his position you’ll probably see the best of him next season, if he gets a good run between now and the end of the season, with the potential he has and the type of player he is I think you’ll see a big player next season.”
Tuesday’s win over Hamilton took Celtic back to the top of the u-20 table on a run of five consecutive wins- and clean sheets.
Having won the u-19 and u-20 title in each of the last four seasons five-in-a-row is an obvious target but not the priority for the club.
During January Paul George, Joe Chalmers, Mikey Miller and Stuart Findlay went out on loan with other players likely to make a similar move to accelerate their development.
The next crop of players such as Leo Fasan, Liam Henderson and Eoghan O’Connell have made a big impression with Kennedy looking for further improvements in the months ahead as the league campaign reaches a climax.
“Obviously we want to win the league but looking at the bigger picture we’ve sent a lot of players out on loan to get regular first team football,” he added.
“The ultimate aim is to get them into our first team, not to win this league. If we win it it’s terrific, we enjoy that side of it, it’s part of our mentality of Celtic, but we are one of the youngest squads in this league.
“We are a young team, a good team, but we don’t have the experience through the team that we have had in the past. If we get there this season it would be a marvellous achievement.
“This is a new experience for a lot of our younger players, they are now the mainstay of the team. It’s upto them to grab that opportunity and we want to compete for the league title.”
Next week’s scheduled fixture at Dunfermline has been postponed.