ERIK Sviatchenko left Celtic in January 2018. But Celtic will never entirely leave Sviatchenko.

“They were kind enough to give me a Celtic TV login,” smiled the Danish defender. “So, I’m never far away.”

If there is a wistful sense that he could still be front and centre rather than being on the outside looking in, the 27-year-old isn’t for humouring it. A staple of the Invincibles side in Brendan Rodgers’ inaugural season at Celtic, Sviatchenko made 43 appearances for the Parkhead side as they went on to make history with an unbeaten clean sweep that culminated with Tom Rogic's dramatic winner at a monsoon-like Hampden against Aberdeen. But from there on in, however, it was a slow uncoupling as he faded from the picture and Dedryck Boyata rose to first-team prominence. His last appearance for the club was to limp off during a Champions League qualifier against Rosenborg in August 2017. In total he turned out 63 times for Celtic.

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There is a feeling among some observers that Rodgers was hasty in allowing the player to return to FC Midtjylland in his native Denmark on loan last January, a move that became permanent in the summer window but Sviatchenko harbours no ill will. And nor does he believe that Celtic fans should have any real beef with Rodgers following his shock exit to Leicester and the Premier League at the end of February.

“I am a very positive person,” said Sviatchenko. “I don’t look back and think of my time at Celtic as anything sour. It was a beautiful experience for me and for my family. I loved it. I have Brendan to thank for some of the biggest games of my career. I played Champions League football and fulfilled a dream of mine to play in that environment. That Invincible season was so special and I have amazing memories of it.

“There was a bit of me that wondered why. I don’t really know why it came to an end for me. But I have a lot to be thankful for so I am not sore that I did not get more time but rather grateful for the time that I had. And I think in time that Celtic fans will see the entirety of Brendan’s time at the club that way too. He brought Champions League football back. He brought an exciting brand of football and he won seven trophies out of seven. He put a smile on a lot of people’s faces. I understand why people were so disappointed but you have to remember what the past few seasons have felt like for a Celtic supporter.”

For those same supporters of a certain vintage, there was an unwelcome resurfacing of an old and unwelcome feeling when Rodgers’ side were beaten at Ibrox at the end of December. It was the only time Rodgers lost to Rangers throughout his time at Celtic but that one defeat in the last 13 meetings is one that Sviatchenko suspects will have lingered over the current squad.

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There will be a number of Celtic players involved in the derby who have yet to experience it before with Sviatchenko insistent that the most important bit of advice dispensed before the game is to stay calm. The defender’s first experience of the game was bittersweet – he came off the bench at Hampden to score only for Celtic to lose on penalties to Rangers in a Scottish Cup semi-final that brought down the curtain on Ronny Deila’s career – and he will be interested to see how the likes of Oliver Burke, Timothy Weah and Jeremy Toljan will fare in an environment he is confident will be like little else they will have experienced.

“I still have goosebumps when I think of the games against Rangers,” said Sviatchenko. “I would say it is up there with the top 5 games in the world. It made me proud to have been a little part of it, to have had the chance to savour that intensity, a game that is such an important historical fixture. There is not the same political feeling around it as there might have been many years ago but there is always a feeling that you are part of something that is very important.

“You just have to win it. That is the only prevailing feeling that matters. Celtic have been on top for so many years that I think so many would have forgotten what it felt like to walk out of the game on the losing side. And that is not pleasant. I think the fact Celtic lost in December and they played poorly by their own standards in this fixture will give the game a bit of an edge. But they are ten points clear now and I think there really isn’t a huge amount of pressure on them.

“Every individual prepares differently for a game but from the minute you walk out of the tunnel to warm up for a game against Rangers, there is a different feel to the afternoon. You can sense it. For me, I always tried to stay calm, keep my focus and concentrate on the game plan and what I had to do. But every touch in the opening minutes is intense – cheers or jeers or boos or whatever. Everything feels accentuated in the first few minutes of the game. It almost after the game that you enjoy it rather than when you are actually in it.”

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Sviatchenko bucks the tired football stereotype. The son of a Ukrainian artist, the defender and his brother Philip run an art and fashion blog and much of his time in Glasgow was spent in galleries or walking around the city in order to appreciate the varying and historical architecture.

It is intriguing, then, to wonder what he might have made of Scott Brown’s rousing huddle team-talks. Sviatchenko laughs at question but opts for the omerta of the dressing room.

“What goes on in the huddle stays private,” he smiled. “The only one thing I will say is that when you break from the huddle and hear that huge roar you feel like you are ready for anything. You feel like are capable of anything.”

A return to Glasgow, too, is imminent. The player and his wife, Anne, have just welcomed a baby daughter, Clara, and Sviatchenko is keen that they return as a family to a city that he expects to enjoy a lifelong connection with. If there seems something unusual in the his emotional attachment to the club and the city, Sviatchenko sought to articulate the reasons why.

“My son, William, was born in Glasgow and it is a place we will always return to." he explained. "We were back for a visit in December and I think there was so much of Glasgow that resonated with us. Like the experience of the club, it was intense. The whole city lifted me to a place and a standing I didn’t know I had. In Glasgow, if you play for Celtic then people adore you. I am just a normal person but I fell a little bit in love with that. We had two wonderful years there. We developed as a family and developed as humans and I played some of the biggest games of my career. I loved being part of it and I think it will always have a little bit of Glasgow under my skin.”