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Former Celtic star Virgil Van Dijk says he has John Collins to thank for Southampton move

Virgil Van Dijk (right) and John Collins (SNS Group)
Virgil Van Dijk (right) and John Collins (SNS Group)

VIRGIL VAN DIJK has singled out John Collins as a major influence on his career.

And the cultured Dutch defender is gutted that Collins and Ronny Deila are leaving Celtic today after the final league game against Motherwell at Parkhead.

Van Dijk, who swopped the Hoops for Southampton’s stripes last summer, believes Collins will be a loss to the club as he improved his game by doing extra sessions on the training pitch and video analysis work.

The man who commanded a £12.5-million fee, told the Sunday Post: “I’m still in touch with a few of the players at Celtic. I’m friends with Stefan Johansen and we are going on holiday together.

“I’m pleased for everyone that another league title has been secured, and they deserve credit for the five-in-a-row achievement.

“But I am disappointed that Ronny Deila and John Collins are leaving.

“I trained every single day with John Collins and we would often do extra work together. He has a drive that impressed me, to get the maximum out of every player, every single day.

“He knows his football and helped improve aspects of my game during the one year I worked with him, no doubts about that.

“I’m gutted he is leaving Celtic because he is an excellent coach and a fine human being. I’m certain he will go on to new adventures in football, and I wish him well.

“Ronny will also get back into the game. He has a good reputation. It’s very hard to be the head coach of Celtic because of the high demands every single day.

“He will be disappointed the way things have worked out but he won two titles and the league will always be the most important thing.

“A new manager will be coming in and he will have the same level of expectation on his shoulders – to win the league and qualify for the Champions League group stages.

”Of course, with Rangers being back next season, it raises the stakes and it should make everything even more exciting and add extra interest.

“The battle between both clubs will have everyone talking, and taking a closer look at the game in Scotland. But clubs such as Hearts and Aberdeen will also have a say in how it all develops.

”I wish Celtic the very best of luck. I hope the new coach qualifies for the Champions League and wins six-in-a-row. He will be on the way to being a legend if he manages to achieve both things.”

Van Dijk will turn out for Southampton this afternoon at home to Crystal Palace as they look to clinch a Europa League place.

He has played a vital part in their fine run this season, and has thrived under fellow countryman, Ronald Koeman. He has been rewarded with a lucrative contract to keep him at St Mary’s until 2022, while another ex-Celt, keeper Fraser Forster has just been handed a new five-year deal.

Van Dijk said: “I have enjoyed every day at the club. There is a good atmosphere in the dressing-room, and good levels of communication between the players and the coaching staff. Team spirit is so important and we have it at an amazing level.

“It is our last game and to qualify for Europe would make it all the more special.

“I have enjoyed the experience of playing in a top, top league and against strikers of the calibre of Sergio Aguero and Jamie Vardy. They are all so talented and so tough to play against.

“In every single game in this league, I have to be at my very best for more than 90 minutes. It is dangerous to switch off for even one second and I mean that honestly.

“It means that the concentration levels have to be 100%. But I enjoy the test and the demands of it all.

“To have a coach of Ronald Koeman’s calibre has been amazing. He has helped me and I hope that I keep improving.

“He knows the game inside out and played for his country at the highest level. He was an outstanding footballer and played for the biggest club in the world, Barcelona.

“He believed in my qualities, which is why he signed me from Celtic last season. I took that as a very big compliment.

“Now, we must all look to keep going and keep producing results and performances. The aim is to get better and better every year. I think we can do it.”


Celtic offer £15m transfer war chest to tempt Roy Keane to Parkhead

I was very surprised Ronny Deila was shown the door at Celtic but the same happened to me, says Gianluca Vialli