On the 9th August 2015 and an almost forgotten about Tom Rogic made his first start in a Celtic jersey for nigh on two years in an away fixture at Firhill. Within half an hour the Aussie had re-introduced himself to the Celtic faithful with a sweet right foot volley to open the scoring and begin a journey that would see him move from peripheral figure to integral member of the starting eleven.
Signed by Neil Lennon during the 2013 January transfer window from A-League side Central Coast Mariners, Rogic was tipped to have a bright future in the game having previously been selected to play for the Nike Football Academy. In order to secure his signature, Celtic had to move fast to beat the likes of Fulham, Celta Vigo, and Club Brugge, all of whom had registered an interest in the young Socceroo.
Despite making a promising start to his Celtic career, setting up a goal for Kris Commons on his debut, Rogic’s first half season in the Hoops was always going to be used primarily as a settling in period for the 20 year-old playmaker; and so it proved, with limited first team opportunities Rogic made a solid 8 league appearances which, unfortunately, was not enough to earn him a League Winners medals.
2013/14, Rogic’s first full season at Celtic, was one of disappointment with the Aussie failing to secure a regular first team spot and questions being raised over his long-term future with the club. A loan move to Melbourne in January which was supposed to propel Rogic into the Australian national team for the upcoming World Cup also ended in disaster as a recurring groin injury marred his loan and resulted in him missing the World Cup.
By the time the Partick Thistle game on 9th August 2015 came around, Tom Rogic had amassed just 26 appearances in the 2 ½ years since signing for Celtic; 11 of them coming whilst on loan at Melbourne Victory. However, given the form of Kris Commons in the number 10 role during that period it is hard to say whether he would have made more of an impact on the Celtic team regardless of any loan move away.
Having missed out on the previous three League titles wins and not featured at all during Ronny Deila’s first season in charge, 2015/16 was Rogic’s make or break season, and Partick was just the beginning.
There’s an old saying in football that when a player returns after a long-term injury he is like a ‘new signing’. Well, in the case of Tom Rogic, it was a return from a loan and a spell in the footballing wilderness that made him feel like a new signing. Many fans watching the game that night at Firhill could easily have been forgiven for forgetting what he looked like, never mind how he played or if he was actually any good. All questions he would answer positively during the 64 minutes that he was on the park.
That night Rogic put in a controlled performance, bossing and dictating a great deal of Celtic’s attacking play. He was always ready and willing to take a pass, looked to penetrate the Thistle defence whenever possible, shoot when the opportunity arose and make late, dangerous runs into the box. It may only have been 64 minutes but it was enough to suggest that he was a Celtic star in the making.
And so it proved. With goals against the likes of Rangers, Hearts, and that goal against Kilmarnock in the 90th minute as well as numerous assists Rogic played his way into the hearts of the Celtic fans and onto the team sheet on a regular basis. With his deft footwork eluding many a defender and pin point accurate passing helping to unlock as many defences, Rogic finally got his hands on his first League Winners medal.
His performances also drew the attention of several big name clubs with Arsenal strongly linked with a move over the summer which either never materialised or was laughed out of court by Peter Lawwell.
Under Brendan Rodgers, Rogic’s third manager at Celtic, his role in the team as designated #10 has become even more profound. Rogic is now charged with being the creative playmaker in the middle of the three behind the front man, a responsibility he appears to be enjoying immensely having racked up 10 goals in 27 appearances so far this term; including another vital last minute winner away to Motherwell.
Rogic is a player for the big occasion, never shirking from responsibility and always looking drive the team forward. If there is a criticism of his game it may well be that the rarely lasts the full the 90 minutes, averaging 65 minutes per appearance so far this season. However, given his work rate, skill, and knack for scoring and creating goals, he has usually done his days work by that point in any case.