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Brendan Rodgers wants an end to artificial pitches in cinch Premiership

Celtic lost on Kilmarnock’s plastic pitch in August (Steve Welsh/PA)
Celtic lost on Kilmarnock’s plastic pitch in August (Steve Welsh/PA)

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers hopes Sunday’s trip to Rugby Park is among the last few times his team have to play on artificial pitches in the cinch Premiership.

Kilmarnock aim to install a grass pitch in their stadium once their new training ground is up and running, although that is still at the planning application stage.

Reports claim that discussions will be held in the new year over potential rule changes to ban artificial pitches in the top flight.

Livingston manager David Martindale this week claimed that moving from plastic to grass could cost them £2.5million but other teams in the top division would likely welcome a rule change.

Rugby Park
Kilmarnock players warm up on the pitch facing Celtic (PA)

Rodgers said: “It’s a constant conversation. It’s clear that every coach would want to play, I’m pretty sure, on a grass pitch.

“The sooner that is the possibility up here then the better it would be for everyone.

“I understand the economics of it all and what it would mean for some clubs, but there should be a certain level or a certain standard of which every team, if you are playing in the top flight, should have a grass pitch.”

Celtic suffered a 1-0 Viaplay Cup defeat on Kilmarnock’s pitch in August, but Rodgers believes his side are better equipped for Sunday’s trip to Ayrshire.

“Certainly where the team is at now is a far different place to back then,” Rodgers said.

“It was probably a good time to play us with players coming in and the challenges we had. It’s a different team – the structure and attitude is different.

“That doesn’t mean it’s going to be an easy game. Derek (McInnes) has really put his team in a good place in the top six and they are hard to beat.”

Kyogo Furuhashi and Hyeon-Gyu OhCeltic Park
Kyogo Furuhashi and Oh Hyeon-Gyu could both be involved in the Asian Cup (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Oh Hyeon-gyu affirmed his hopes of playing in the Asian Cup in January after netting two goals in Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Hibernian in only his second start under Rodgers.

With Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda also in the running for the Japan squad, Rodgers is poised to go into the transfer market for a striker and his club were this week linked with a move for Aberdeen’s Bojan Miovski.

“It will depend,” he said, when asked about his plans for a new striker in January. “Clearly we are trying to anticipate over the last few months the guys that will go away to the Asian Cup.

“Clearly if Daizen is away, Kyogo is away and Oh is away, we would have to do something in the market.”

Mikey Johnston was also given a rare start against Hibs but Rodgers told the winger in a post-match media interview that he had to “do more”.

Mikey Johnston
Mikey Johnston in action against Hibs (Steve Welsh/PA)

When asked about how to get the best out of players, Rodgers said: “That’s always the challenge of a coach. You are having to find many different ways to do it but, of course, you are always best being honest.

“Mikey knows that. The reason Mikey is still here, from the summer, is because I rate him as a player. I could easily have put him out on loan but I know his talent and I want to do everything I possibly can to allow him to maximise that talent.

“He has made great strides in his training performance just in terms of his consistency, and made an impact coming off the bench, but I know how much he wants to play for Celtic and start for Celtic.

“I know he was disappointed himself the other night. But without forcing it you hope you can see his qualities on a regular basis.

“He is a very, very talented player, one of the very best to come out of the academy here in terms of talent, individual quality, one v one, speed, he’s got stronger as well.

“But he’s not a baby anymore. He is 24 and if you want to start regularly for Celtic you have to have a robustness, you have to be mentally strong, you have to be competitive and physically brave.”