ALL good things must come to an end, and so I bid the wonderful city of Linz in Austria a fond farewell on Wednesday after following Celtic on their pre-season trip for eight days.

Just as well really, I was more Schnitzel than man by the time I waddled to the airport.

What was an exercise in gluttony for me though was a rigorous exercise for Celtic.

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From their luxury training camp high in the mountains of the Bohemian Forest, Brendan Rodgers put his men through punishing daily double-sessions and took in four matches in the pretty little towns dotted down the Danube.

The grounds they played in for the most part resembled some of the modern Junior and Lowland League grounds in ScotlandEast Kilbride’s K-Park would be a decent comparison – but it was all good, sturdy preparation for what lies ahead, Celtic hope, in more storied European arenas this season. So, what did we learn from it all?

The first match against Steyr was a decent enough run-out, with an announcer who barked like an army sergeant major and glorious frankfurter hot-dogs being sold alongside beer for the lucky locals. Not a bad way to watch your football.

A James Forrest goal got the tour up and running, with Lewis Morgan impressive in the opening 45 minutes of his debut before a change of line-up for the second half.

Unfortunately, a minor knee problem kept him out of the remaining three matches of the tour, but his cameo was a tantalising glimpse of what may be to come from the youngster in a Celtic jersey. 

He should make an appearance against Shamrock Rovers today in Dublin.

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A visit to the team hotel followed the next day, with my jolly Austrian taxi driver negotiating the winding mountain trails at such breakneck speed that my morning Wiener-Wurstchen almost made a reappearance.

Upon arrival, I encountered a relaxed but determined-looking group of players, as well as a refreshed and re-energised Brendan Rodgers. 

The Celtic manager seemed at ease with the progress of his squad and their readiness for the arduous four-tie route to Champions League football that lies ahead, despite the questions around Kieran Tierney’s future which hung heavy in the mountain air. Whether this is his last trip to foreign lands as a Celtic player remains to be seen, with Everton’s interest in landing the 21-year-old genuine.

The next match against Bohemians 1905 in Wels brought a single-goal defeat, and an unfortunate injury to Jonny Hayes, a thigh strain that looks set to keep him out of the Alashkert first leg. 

The re-emergence of Odsonne Edouard was a welcome boost, although Moussa Dembele remained wrapped in cotton wool after his exertions with the French under-21s. 

When he was finally unleashed against Sparta Prague on Tuesday in Rohrbach, what an impression he made. The striker looked in fabulous physical condition, putting my podgy Bratwurst belly to shame, as he bullied the Czech side’s backline in a blistering first-half display.

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Dembele scored the only goal of the game, but could have had two more, and he looks to be in determined mood ahead of the new campaign.

The deployment of a 3-5-2 formation was interesting, hinting that Rodgers may look to get £9million man Edouard and Dembele onto the park together this term.

Earlier in the day, Leigh Griffiths and Scott Sinclair turned out as two experienced heads in a young Celtic XI that saw off BW Linz by two goals to one, the twinkling toes of Mikey Johnston bringing the opener before a Sinclair goal in the second half.

The inclusion of the pair in this side may not bode well for their places in the pecking order, nor their chances of playing in Alashkert.

All things considered, the whole expedition seemed a worthwhile one, and given the upturn in their performance by the time they reached the Sparta game, one that has Celtic purring into gear ahead of the Champions League qualifiers. Now, pass the Gaviscon…