By Matt Farr
Former Scotland-U21 coach Billy Stark has admitted he always knew Celtic’s Stuart Armstrong would become a star.
The Hoops midfielder has been very impressive under Brendan Rodgers this season, contributing eight goals and five assists in 17 Premiership appearances, and Stark has been full of praise for the 24-year-old.
As Scotland’s Under-21 coach, a post he held until November 2014, Stark was a fan of Armstrong, and rewarded his displays with the captain’s armband.
Brendan Rodgers also handed Armstrong the leadership duties against Dundee last month, when Scott Brown was suspended.
The Celtic man went on to make 20 appearances at Under-21 level, scoring four goals, before earning call-ups to the senior setup – but he has yet to appear for the senior side.
Speaking to the Scottish Sun, Stark admits he is not surprised by Armstrong’s rise to fame, suggesting he always knew he would become a top player.
“When I first saw Stuart there was his mechanical running style, he was mobile and had this high knee lift,” he said.
“It has evolved into that lovely running style now. He had broad shoulders and a top-class engine.
“He might not crunch into tackles but he’s got that will to win which separates top players from ordinary ones.”
Stark spent his entire playing career in Scotland, as a midfielder, appearing largely for St. Mirren, Aberdeen and Celtic. In three seasons with Celtic, Stark scored 17 goals from 64 appearances, establishing himself as a regular goalscoring midfielder. He is currently assistant manager at Albion Rovers.
With two goals and one assist in his last three games, Armstrong is in a rich vein of form. But he must wait to continue his superb run, with Celtic not in action again until their Scottish Cup fourth round tie with Albion on 22 January.
In other Celtic news, the Hoops should sign this Brendan Rodgers favourite to replace Mikael Lustig.