ANDREW GUTMAN has become somewhat of a forgotten figure at Celtic after work permit issues forced the American defender back to his native homeland to play his football.

The 23-year-old signed a three-year deal with the Hoops in 2019 before he returned back to the States with Charlotte Independence ahead of linking up with FC Cincinnati at the start of this current MLS campaign.

Gutman’s permit papers are still no closer to being completed and he admits this is a frustration with ambitions of becoming a regular starter under Neil Lennon at the forefront of his mind.

But despite being faced by this major hurdle on his pathway to becoming a Celtic success story, it has not toned down the American youngster’s dreams of pulling on the famous green and white hoops in front of a full Parkhead crowd.

Speaking to Herald and Times Sport, he said: “I think about playing at Celtic Park almost every day. I have been working out and then I’ll just drift off into a little daydream and I am playing at Celtic Park or something like that. It is definitely my goal at the minute.

“The atmosphere at Celtic Park is just crazy. I remember my first game when I signed I got goose bumps when the teams came out the tunnel.

“I have never been to a football match where there are that many people and it is that loud and passionate. In America you get that more at NFL games and stuff like that, you don’t get it for football matches.

“Obviously work permits and stuff have got in my way and that still isn’t sorted. I’m on-loan to Cincinnati for the year and if I’m honest I don’t really know how the work permit stuff works.

“There are other Americans playing in Scotland and they seem to have gone over there no problem. I don’t know if you are playing for a bigger club it is maybe harder to get.

“I try not to think about it too much though and just focus on what I am doing at my club and if I can show well enough then I can get back to Celtic.”

After winning the Hermann Trophy, one of the most prestigious awards for young players in the USA, and graduating out of college football in the States, Gutman was offered a one week trial in Scotland with Rangers.

However, in a swift change of heart the Illinois born left-back opted to sign a contract across the city with the current Scottish Premiership champions.

Gutman admits he was totally unaware of the huge rivalry between the two sides at the time, but he feels as though he made the right decision for his long term future by signing on the dotted line with a green pen.

He continued: “I was on trial at Rangers initially and coming over I wasn’t really aware of how big the rivalry was between the two.

“I knew Matt Polster before my trial at Rangers, because he played in Chicago when I was growing up, but other than him I don’t keep in touch with any of the other guys there now.

“You don’t hear about it a lot in America, but then coming over to Scotland you then get told all about it.

“It was a weird feeling that I was on trial with Rangers then like two weeks later I signed for Celtic after learning about the history of the two clubs. But I think I made the right choice.

“The quality in Celtic’s squad is just head and shoulders above the rest and you can see that especially as the season goes on that they are able to maintain that really high level of play.

“I want to stay at Celtic for as long as I can. I want the Celtic fans to be patient with me because I am not an ordinary signing in terms of paperwork and stuff like that.

“I like to get up and down a lot and I am very direct, so hopefully soon enough I’ll get my chance to show that.”

Gutman also hailed Celtic captain Scott Brown for helping him settle in at the club during a daunting period that saw him come over to Scotland for the first time in his life.

He said: “Scott Brown is 34-years-old, yet he is still one of the best players on the field every single game. He’s the guy I look up to, just to be consistent at that level for so long is pretty impressive and that is something that I want to strive for.

“A lot of the guys on the team make fun of me because I don’t have a lot of hair and he likes to call me his brother because he doesn’t have much hair either, but he is 12 years older than me or something like that!

“He’s one of the nicest guys at the club and he expects a lot out of you, but he also helps you a lot. For me coming over I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect.

“He helped me a lot during my first couple of training sessions and from there I went on and did well.”

On Celtic’s current campaign, Gutman added: “I try to watch most of the games, but it can be tough sometimes with the time difference. 

“I remember last year when I first signed I think it was a similar scenario as to this season, Rangers were close to Celtic then the second half of the season Celtic just took off.

“The whole team has stood out for me. Odsonne Edouard upfront, Christopher Jullien he just comes up in big games, and of course Scott Brown.

“Celtic have checked in on me as soon as the coronavirus broke out and made sure I was safe and they wanted to check out what was going on over here.

“I haven’t had any direct contact with Neil Lennon since I left to go on-loan, but I get it, he is concentrating on the season and trying to win trophies. I wouldn’t expect him to reach out.

“I obviously hope the coronavirus pandemic gets taken care of first, but when football does come back I want to be able to show myself well enough at Cincinnati to get into the national team and then hopefully it will just take off with Celtic from there.”