THERE hasn’t been a lot that has gone right for Vasilis Barkas during his first season at Celtic, but a stroke of misfortune for Scott Bain may just give him the opportunity to salvage his career in Scotland.

Bain, who has been the undisputed first-choice goalkeeper for Celtic since John Kennedy took charge of the team on an interim basis in February, has picked up a finger injury that has prematurely ended his season.

Kennedy will hand forgotten man Barkas the opportunity to impress, with the £5m signing being handed the gloves for the matches against St Johnstone this evening, and – all going well – the final match of the campaign against Hibernian on Saturday.

While Barkas has failed to impress so far since that big-money move from AEK Athens last summer, Kennedy says that there have been mitigating factors.

“Obviously Barkas has come in as a new signing,” said Kennedy.

“We’ve found, speaking to a lot of people at different clubs, it’s been really challenging for the foreign lads this year.

“It’s easy for us, we’re based at home and we go home to our families every night and we’re used to the environment. But for the foreign lads it’s been coming into a kind of alien environment with the Covid restrictions also, and it’s been really challenging for a lot of them. We’ve got to take that into account.

“He’s obviously one who we’ve had high hopes for and maybe his form didn’t quite hit the heights we expected. But we’ve got to work on that, develop that in him. He’s now had one year exposure to that, he realises what the standards are.

“And obviously with Scott being injured it gives him that opportunity to come in for the last two games.

“Hopefully that can get him back in the groove.

“He’s been training and even the training has been different for him, all different to what he’s used to.

“So he’s had to adapt to that.

“We’ve seen improvements in training – so this is a good opportunity for him to come in and perform again.

“He wants to finish the season well enough and then attack pre-season knowing what’s coming this time.”

As well as the unprecedented circumstances forced upon Barkas due to the pandemic, the keeper was also carrying the pressure that comes with his price tag, as well as having some pretty daunting gloves to fill.

“I think you’ve got to have a bit of empathy with him in terms of understanding the situation he found himself in,” Kennedy said.

“Coming in to a huge challenge in itself, a club like Celtic, and obviously the pressure that was on this season even before he started.

“He was coming in as number one and, of course, replacing a guy like Fraser Forster’s huge in itself. People then judge you on that, in terms of who the previous goalkeeper was.

“Some players take more time to adapt than others, and that’s been the case with Vasilis. But, there’s good intentions, we’ll work hard with him and develop him and obviously try and get him back to the level we know he’s capable of.

“He’s had high levels of performances for his country and at Athens in the past, so I know he’s capable of it.

“It’s up to us to get it out of him.”

It seemed as though a parting of the ways between club and player this summer was inevitable, but when Kennedy was asked if the Greek international can still salvage his Celtic career in the long-term, Kennedy said: “Yes, it’s certainly the case. We never write anyone off.

“Everybody goes through tough times and we’ve got to support him in that. Give him guidance, in terms of how to come through it, and then how to develop and become better in dealing with the situation.

“Society and life is starting to get back to normality and that will help him.

“Once that happens then hopefully his professional life can become easier too.

“He’s now had his eyes opened with the expectations at the club, the fans are on you on a daily and weekly basis.

“So, that will stand him in good stead for the future and we’ll look to develop that.”

Meanwhile, Kennedy says that he isn’t sold on the idea of throwing too many kids into the final two matches of the season, despite the dead rubber nature of the fixtures.

There is a school of thought that younger players might benefit from the experience, rather than sticking with loan players who almost certainly won’t be at the club next term, but Kennedy revealed that the likes of Diego Laxalt, Jonjoe Kenny and Moi Elyounoussi are still very much in his thinking.

“One thing I will say about our loan players, they are very committed, great boys who work hard every day,” he said.

“There will be some changes and also because of there being two games in three days, something we’ve not had in a little while. There will be opportunities for changes across both games.

“There won’t be wholesale changes, but we’ll also address the game at the weekend when that comes round.”