THERE are those among the more seasoned professionals at any club whose nose would be out of joint at a young upstart taking their place in the starting XI, but for all that Shane Duffy’s pride may be bruised right now at Celtic, his treatment of Stephen Welsh has been exemplary.
Welsh was brought straight back into the Celtic line-up at Duffy’s expense in Wednesday night’s win over Aberdeen, having sat out the weekend game against St Johnstone through injury.
Far from throwing a tantrum about being displaced by the 21-year-old though, Duffy has in fact continued to try and mentor his younger teammate, even though he himself is going through such a tough time in his own career. An approach that Welsh believes says volumes about his character.
“Shane Duffy is one of the more-experienced players in the team,” Welsh said.
“He’s an international player who has played at the highest level and every day he is chatting away about what you can do better and what you are good at. He’s helped me a lot.
“I wouldn’t say we are direct rivals [for a place in the team]. There’s competition in every position, especially at a team like this. Everyone is fighting for their position, so it doesn’t matter who plays every week.
“Shane being an experienced player and me being a younger player, he does his best to help.
“His character is unbelievable. I think every player goes through a difficult spell and everyone has had it at this club and at different clubs, he’s got the character to come through the other end. There’s no doubt about that.
“That was a big confidence boost [to be restored to the side]after missing a game through injury. The boys won and played well against St Johnstone.
“That’s a few clean sheets now and five wins on the bounce is massive.”
Welsh was hugely impressive along with centre-back partner Kristoffer Ajer as the pair repelled a late aerial bombardment against Aberdeen in midweek, and he says that following the example of Ajer in building up his physicality has helped him be ready for the challenges presented by the Scottish Premiership.
“Kris is a fantastic player – a great defender and good on the ball,” he said.
“With his speed, that gives you a bit more confidence if you make a mistake. He’s in behind to help you. He’s a great defender for us.
“As well as being a footballer, you need to be strong, especially in the Scottish league. Some of the strikers you come up against could be bigger or taller than you, so you need to put in the work in the gym.
“I have done that the past few months which has helped a lot. It’s very physical every game, especially the other night against Aberdeen. That was a very physical game.
“The upper body stuff helps a lot and, hopefully, it helps when we face other physical teams in the league because everyone has big players. Centre-halves coming up for corners as well.”
Ross County certainly have such physical players in their attacking arsenal, and Welsh is ready for the battle when Celtic travel to Dingwall tomorrow night.
If he and his fellow defenders keep up their end of the bargain at one end, he is certain that the attacking players in the Celtic side will certainly do so at the other.
“You take every game as it comes and every team has their strengths,” he said.
“We need to be to the best of our ability, especially going up there as we know it is going to be a tough game.
“We need to play the way we have been playing and, hopefully, keep another clean sheet because we have boys who will score us goals.”