Kayal makes the most of his opportunity

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As the old saying goes, it’s not the fact that you get knocked down in a fight or not, it is whether or not you get back up.

One of the cheering things about Celtic’s win over Ajax in midweek was the performance of Beram Kayal.

In early 2011, the 25-year-old Israeli was tipped to be the next big thing. He had just won the Player of the Month award for a string of impressive displays in the Hoops, and was said to be interesting Manchester United.

Go forward 12 months, though, and he had been completely eclipsed by Victor Wanyama. Not only the Kenyan, either, but also the likes of Joe Ledley and, of course, Scott Brown.

Dogged by an ankle injury, Kayal spent months on the sidelines.

Football is a funny game, however. If you hang around long enough, your chance will come and, with Brown banned, Kris Commons out injured and Ledley recovering from injury, Kayal got his against Ajax.

Given the minimal amount of first-team football he has played this season, charging him with controlling the midfield in a crucial Champions League tie was asking a lot of the player.

Happily, though, he grabbed it with both hands.

I thought his contribution against the Dutch champions was outstanding and not just because he chipped in with a vital goal. Time and time again, he broke up the passing moves of an Ajax side which moved the ball well and with confidence.

It was a high-energy display, and precisely what was needed in the captain’s absence.

From Kayal’s personal point of view, what happens next is up to him. If he can continue to play at that level, I could certainly see him holding down a regular place in the Celtic side. Given his comparative youth, I could even see him still landing a lucrative move to England.

From Celtic’s point of view, it underlines the club’s ability to cope with the demands of campaigning at the very highest level. Injuries and suspensions are a fact of life in football, but squads are there to cope.

In beating Ajax without the services of Brown, Kris Commons, and Adam Matthews, they have shown they can do just that.

Brown’s ban and the impact it could have on the club have been well documented. But after what we saw against Ajax, there is reason for optimism that his absence won’t prevent Celtic winning again to keep alive their chances of making the last 16 once again.

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