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Celtic manager backs Rogic to follow in Keane's footsteps

Date

Ronnie Esplin

Tom Rogic will wear No.18 for Celtic.

Tom Rogic will wear No.18 for Celtic.

CELTIC manager Neil Lennon is confident Canberra's Tom Rogic can continue his meteoric rise, comparing the 20-year-old's development to that of Irish star Roy Keane.

Rogic checked in at Lennoxtown this week after securing a work permit, following his move from A-League club Central Coast.

Lennon snapped up the attacking midfielder on a 4½ year contract for a reported fee of $610,000, after he had trained with the Celtic players in Marbella during their winter training camp last month.

Rogic will not be in the squad for Sunday's Scottish Cup tie at Raith Rovers, but Lennon said he could be involved in the Champions League last-16 clash with Juventus on February 12.

Lennon recognised Rogic's relatively late entry into the professional game but had enough confidence in the player to put him alongside some exalted company.

''I think he has had a meteoric rise, but long may that continue,'' Lennon said. ''We are not saying he is the Great White Hope or anything like that but I think he will be invaluable as the season goes on and, over the next two or three years, we hope he blossoms into the player we hope he can be.

''There are times you get late developers who go on to have fantastic careers.

''Roy Keane was playing at Cobh Ramblers and, a couple of months later, Brian Clough gave him his debut (for Nottingham Forest) at Anfield against Liverpool and Roy didn't look back.

''Tom has matured physically, although I think he has a little bit more to come in that aspect, but athletically and football-wise, for his age, he is very good.''

Rogic was discovered during football's version of X-Factor.

He was invited to the Nike Football Academy at Loughborough University after winning The Chance, a football talent search competition organised by Nike and run all over the world.

Asked if there was an X-Factor element to his breakthrough, Rogic, who has since won four caps for the Socceroos, laughed then replied: ''In a way I guess you could put it like that.

''About two years ago, I was just playing local football [in Canberra for Belconnen]. The Chance program was to find unidentified talent who had not been at professional clubs.

''Playing local league at the time, I gave it a try and ended up being part of the Nike Academy, based in Loughborough, England, for about six months.

''Not being able to sign for any clubs because of work permit reasons, I headed home and signed for Central Coast, where I had a productive 12 months.

''The past 12, 18 months seem pretty crazy but I have put in a lot of hard work and believe I have earned the opportunity.''

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