AS someone who occupied the same area of the field and was also tasked with using his pace and guile to unpick opposition defences during his time as a Celtic player, Simon Donnelly appreciates just how good Tom Rogic is.

And he knows how much Ange Postecoglou will miss Rogic, who has joined up with the Australia squad in Melbourne ahead of their World Cup qualifiers against Vietnam and Oman, when the playmaker is away on international duty.

The man who won every honour in the Scottish game in the six years that he spent in the first team at Parkhead, understands why supporters are concerned about the impact his absence will have on their cinch Premiership campaign.

The Glasgow club will have to face Hearts away and Dundee United and Rangers, who are currently four points ahead of them, at home in the league without an individual who has been one of their best performers in the 2021/22 season.

With David Turnbull also sidelined by injury at the moment, not having the footballer who has set up six goals and is second top of the top flight assists table is far from ideal. 

Yet, Donnelly, who now works in the media as a pundit and co-commentator and is a regular attendee at Celtic games, is confident that his old club can cope without Rogic and maintain their push for the Scottish title thanks to the presence of a new arrival.

Reo Hatate, the Japanese internationalist who moved to Scotland at the start of this month along with his countrymen Yosuke Ideguchi and Daizen Maeda, may have played fewer than 90 minutes for his new club.

However, Donnelly saw enough during the midfielder’s time on the park in the 2-0 triumph over Hibernian in the East End last Monday night to know that he can be a potent weapon for Postecoglou in the coming months and beyond.

"Tom Rogic has been back looking like the old Tom Rogic this season,” he said. “I think playing under Ange again has helped him rediscover his best form. They obviously worked together before with Australia. Since the new boss has come in, Tom has kicked on again.

"He's back to his best so you are going to miss a guy like that when he's out. You'll always miss someone of his calibre when he's not available. There's no doubt about the guy's talent and for the next little period Celtic will need to find a way to replace him.

“But it's up to other boys to come in and replace him. That's why Ange has brought in Hatate, Ideguchi and (Matt) O'Riley during the window.”

Donnelly added: "The boy Hatate looks like he'll be a real player for Celtic. I covered the Hibs game last week and he was excellent for the first 45 minutes.

"He ran out of steam in the second half, which was understandable. Him and Maeda hadn't played a lot of football recently. But he showed more than enough in that first half.

“He played further forward as well - he played on the right, Rogic on the left - so you're probably looking at someone like him to fill Rogic's shoes. I don't know much about O'Riley (new signing Matt) and whether he can come straight in. But I certainly think Hatate can fill any void left by Tom.”

Rogic looked set to depart Celtic at the start of last season when an unnamed Qatari club tabled a £3.5m bid for the midfielder only for the move to fall through when the two parties were unable to reach agreement on personal terms.

The 29-year-old had become less influential for the Glasgow giants the previous season and was increasingly being left on the replacements bench when the bid was accepted. It was suggested at the time that he was past his best and unable to compete at the highest level.

Donnelly always thought differently and has not been surprised to see him rediscover his form. But he thinks that Postecoglou deserves enormous credit for bringing the best out in the 51-tmes capped internationalist in the past six months. 

"I was frustrated like every other Celtic fan but I never thought he was done at all,” he said. "I knew the ability was still there. The frustration was just that he wasn't showing it as regularly as he had before.

"When you looked back at the stuff he was doing the three or four seasons before - especially in big games, cup finals, derbies against Rangers - then you knew it would still be there. It just needed something to bring him back to his best.

"I think the key to that has been Ange. I thought during the summer that the Australian link might mean there was still a space for him and that's the way it's turned out. He's gone from strength to strength.”

Rogic was often criticised for not being fit enough because his energy levels often dropped midway through the second-half of games and he was regularly removed from the field.

But Donnelly, who attended the youth football tournament organised by the Charlie Miller Football Academy and the Nick Maughan Foundation at Toryglen on Sunday to help hand out medals to kids, feels the fact he has played over 1,000 minutes in the Premiership this term shows he is in great shape.

"He is going distance now,” he said. “I think there was a lot made of the 'lasting an hour' stuff. He'd be taken off and people would question his fitness.  But I think as a nation, Australians are always really fit. They pride themselves on it. I think that was just something people would jump on because he was getting taken off. He's been one of Celtic's main players this season.”