GARY Mackay-Steven hopes to follow in his friend Stuart Armstrong's slipstream and become the next forgotten fringe man to suddenly make himself indispensable to the Celtic cause.

The 26-year-old climbed off the bench at the Etihad on Tuesday night to make his first appearance for the Parkhead first team since April and his manager's midas touch continued with a half-hour cameo which displayed precisely what the winger has to offer.

Were it not for a fine close range stop from Willy Caballero, he might even have ended up with the winning goal on the night.

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Heavily linked with a loan move to his former side Ross County this August after undergoing ankle surgery, Mackay-Steven had been widely thought to be on his way out at Parkhead this summer.

But with James Forrest laid low with a hamstring problem and Scott Sinclair still a couple of games away from his return, instead he is likely to find at least a further two match window against Partick Thistle and Hamilton Accies to press his claim for a Parkhead future. There is no better template to follow than Armstrong, the man alongside whom he joined from Dundee United on deadline day in 2015.

“The whole team has improved since the manager came in," said Mackay-Steven. "He’s been a breath of fresh air and everyone wants to work hard and show what they can do. That’s what I’ll be doing for the rest of the season.

“It’s been a hard time for me, having a long term injury and having to watch from the sidelines," added the full Scotland international, who spent a couple of years at Anfield before Rodgers arrived there. "It’s not been nice watching the new manager coming in and everyone hitting the ground running, with you stuck having to watch on. But he’s been very positive with me. He told me I needed to be patient. Obviously I can’t complain too much when the team has been doing so well.

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“I want to be part of things here - I had no qualms whatsoever about leaving. In the few months he’s been here it’s just drilled it home how amazing a club this is. You saw it again on Tuesday when our fans outsung the City support all night. I want to be playing with a smile on my face and entertaining them."

Mackay-Steven also put one on a plate for Leigh Griffiths and made at least one fine backtracking run to halt a threatening City counter attack. The man whose career in the game began in Thurso, the remote surfing capital of Caithness, appeared to be surfing on the crest of a wave.

"It was my first appearance of the season and I was thrown right in at the shallow end!" he joked. "No, I was just thrilled to be back and to be contributing again. Hopefully it’s onwards and upwards now. although it was frustrating I didn’t manage to score with the chance I got. We were unhappy with the draw as we felt we could have nicked it."

The display was another demonstration of his manager's canny knack for man management. "You can’t throw boys to the garbage," said Rodgers. "One of the big things as a manager is to recognise and acknowledge that for the guys not playing it’s tough sometimes. Gary has been preparing now for four weeks for his moment and it can come at any time. He has been brilliant in training, but hardly able to play. But he was ready for his moment when it came.

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"There is no question [he can have a future at this club]," the Northern Irishman added. "He is the same as Armstrong and Scott Brown and all of these. This is a boy who has all the tools in terms of how I like my teams to play. He runs forward, he is aggressive, he understands how to press the ball and he’s got a goal in him. He is a fantastic talent.

“It’s very difficult when you go from that wee village up there because the world is a big place. ,Sometimes it just takes a bit of time. He’s come to a big club like Celtic and for both him and Stu it’s huge expectation. You go from, what, 8,000 to whatever it was here when they came in. It’s a huge jump. But now they’re adapting and working with confidence. They feel confidence because they’re improving. Gary can be the next one, but I can only play 11 players.”