GLASGOW — Forgotten man Kundai Benyu, who arrived at Celtic from Ipswich Town a year ago, is hoping to impress Brendan Rodgers after starting pre-season with the reigning Scottish football champions last week.
Celtic Quick News Magazine
The talented 20-year-old midfielder, who started out his professional career on the books of English Championship outfit Ipswich Town, made only four appearances for the Hoops before being loaned to English League One side Oldham for the remainder of last season.
Benyu rarely featured at the Boundary Park outfit, but the Zimbabwe international has returned to training with the champions and is eager to prove he is worthy of the four-year deal he agreed when he quit Portman Road at the end of his contract.
Rodgers has added Lewis Morgan, a £300 000 January purchase from St Mirren, to his midfield strength while Ryan Christie has also returned after his season-long loan deal at Aberdeen.
Jonny Hayes, a broken-leg victim in the last campaign, will also be back in contention.
Rodgers was impressed by London-born Benyu in the early games of last term before deciding he needed first-team football elsewhere.
He said then: “He’s been very good. He’s surprised me, to be honest. We knew he was a good player.
“You see what we’re trying to build here in terms of players being technically gifted.
“But they have to have good mobility and good physicality. And he has that. He’s played with a nice little edge, he’s competitive. And he’s got a confidence.
“We will see how he develops. Initially, the plan was to have him in, thinking he can get an idea of how we work and then go on loan.”
Benyu added: “Given time, working as hard as I can in training and listening to the gaffer and his advice, I think I’ll be able to get in the team as much as I can.”
It remains to be seen whether Rodgers will be prepared to give Benyu the chance to establish himself as a member of his first-team squad, or whether he would rather send the midfielder out on loan in search of regular game time, yet again.
There can be no doubt that the 20-year-old faces stiff competition to accumulate minutes on the pitch, with the likes of Scott Sinclair, James Forrest, Lewis Morgan, Callum McGregor and Christie all ahead of him in the pecking order.
Celtic, who returned to first-team training on Tuesday in preparation for their upcoming Uefa Champions League qualifiers, completed a historic double treble last campaign and Rodgers’ men will be looking to improve even further in the upcoming season.
One way of doing that would naturally be by progressing beyond the group stage on the European front; however, the Hoops will be aware that they must first have to beat Armenian side FC Alashkert in the first qualifying round next month.