Celtic manager Neil Lennon has assured Paddy McCourt he has a major role to play in the coming weeks and months.
McCourt has not started for Celtic since netting a superb solo winner at Inverness on the opening day of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League season.
A neck injury sustained celebrating that goal saw McCourt fall out of the team, although he has come off the bench in Celtic’s three other SPL wins.
The Northern Ireland winger did so to great effect on Saturday, netting another brilliant individual effort as Celtic beat Hearts 3-0.
McCourt, who signed a new three-year contract in the summer, admitted after the match he felt he had to produce something special every time he played given the competition for places.
But Lennon, who recently questioned whether McCourt would ever be as fit as most of his team-mates, fully intends to utilise the former Rochdale and Derry City player’s talents.
Lennon, whose team face Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Sunday, told the Huddle Online: “It was a wonderful goal and I enjoyed Paddy‘s performance.
“He is going to play a part this season, no doubt about it. The more he trains on a regular basis, the less we need to worry about his injury problems.
“He is in a good place at the moment. He is ready to play and will play a big part in the next few weeks.”
One of the creative players blocking McCourt’s path to a starting spot is Shaun Maloney, who has also netted two SPL goals this season.
But Maloney has often been deployed in a central role and that is exactly how Lennon sees him playing during the campaign.
“He is emerging, and I know it‘s early in the season, as a big player for us,” the Celtic manager said.
“I have been a big fan of Shaun for a long, long time. I‘ve known him since he emerged as a 17-year-old when I was playing in the 2000-2001 season.
“He is not only a great footballer but also very intelligent and has a great football brain. He has something different from the rest, he has a great appreciation of the game and the touch and pace to get away from people.
“I was delighted with his goal (against Hearts). He can be more clinical but he is getting into those positions, which he wasn‘t doing before. Once he gets a few more goals under his belt, his season will really take off.”