Ismaila Soro says he will have a huge job on his hands to succeed Scott Brown at Celtic.
The Hoops skipper is very much still on the premises and, indeed, played all 90 minutes of the win against Aberdeen eight days ago.
However, with his 36th birthday coming up in three months’ time, the club need no telling he is in the final stage of his playing career.
When he does finally have to stand down, all expectations are that Soro will simply slot in and business will go on as normal.
The 22-year-old Ivorian has already proved he can excel in Brown’s holding midfielder role, having kept him out of the side at times this season.
Yet if the transition is seen as a no-brainer by the fans, who pushed for him to be the automatic first-choice in the midst of the struggles under Neil Lennon’s charge, for the man himself it is not quite so simple.
“It’s a very tough job to step into Scott’s shoes,” said Soro. “The captain is a really great player, who I respect a lot. To be at such a big team for such a long time as captain says a lot about him.
“And it’s not just about the job he does on the pitch. It’s everything else. He is such an important figure at this club.
“Being the one who has to try to do the same job on the pitch is a big challenge.”
Overcoming challenges is nothing new to Soro. His move to Celtic Park last January followed spells in Moldova, Belarus and Israel.
“I stayed in Scotland through the Covid lockdown. That was tough but I have a strong mentality,” he said.
“By the time I came here, I had already played in three different countries, so I have learned to adapt.
“The hardest situation was probably here during Covid because nobody could go anywhere. It was really hard to cope with those circumstances.
“Vakoun Bayo (the Hoops striker currently on loan with Toulouse) was important for me at that period. We are both Ivorian, and he helped me settle.
“But, as I say, the key thing for me is that, when I go on to the pitch, I have the same approach.
“At all times my priority is to work hard. It is no different whether I am playing in Belarus, Israel or Scotland.”
As Soro says, he wasn’t lacking for support.
“Even when I was not playing, John Kennedy would take time to speak to me and that was actually very important.
“He is someone who speaks to me a lot, and who has given me a lot of good advice since I came to Celtic.
“That was important. Even when I was not playing, the fact he would take time to speak to me was actually very important.
“I also have to thank Neil Lennon a lot. When I arrived at the club, he helped me and he taught me – and finally he played me! I’m thankful for all of that.”
Having hit his first goal for Celtic against Dundee United in his side’s 3-0 win at the end of December, Soro is relishing the prospect of this afternoon’s renewal at Tannadice.
“Of course, I would love to do the same again,” he said. “I am ready for every match, and I have a lot of confidence already.
“By playing more games, I will get better and I hope to have an even better game this weekend.”
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