WHEN Hatem Elhamed came to Celtic, he was something of an unknown quantity to their supporters. The Israeli defender had a decent enough CV, but his impact on the side surpassed the expectations of fans and even perhaps his manager.

It was all going so well right up until the Europa League match against Lazio in Rome, which proved to be the highpoint of the campaign for Celtic collectively, but a personal nightmare for Elhamed as he picked up a groin injury which sidelined him for months.

The full-back watched on as Jeremie Frimpong blossomed in his stead, and then, as he made his first tentative steps towards making a fist of it for his place back in the team, lockdown brought the curtain down prematurely on the season.

There would be no release from his frustration until last week, when he was named in the starting XI for Celtic’s Champions League qualifier against KR Reykjavik, proof positive that his hard work had paid off, and that his manager still counted on him when it came to the must-win fixtures.

"He has told me that I am an experienced player and I have many qualities that he likes, so, yes, he trusts me in the big games and the big nights,” Elhamed said.

“And I am happy that I show him again and again that I deserve his trust and I am looking forward to playing good again, to keep myself fit and have a good season and stay free of injury.

"I came to Celtic and start my career here very good and I was happy for three months, then I had bad luck and get a big injury against Lazio and then I didn't start an official game until the last game [before lockdown], so it was very strange for me because I'd never had such a large time out without being able to play football.

“But I focused on training to get myself fit and waiting for my chance to play again and show my qualities on the pitch and hopefully I can play more in the future.

"It was almost 10 months without a start and playing football. I played 30 minutes against Kilmarnock and that was good to get me ready to start in the Champions League. It was a good feeling for me and gave me confidence to go again and show my best.”