6. Tom Rogic (Last Year: 90)
Celtic (SCO) / Australia / Attacking Midfield
Words by Martin Lowe
The year 2016 was evidence, if any was needed, that an injury-free Tom Rogic is a player that warrants attention. After missing out on large parts of 2015 with a reoccurring groin problem, Rogic (until December at least) remained fit and firing for club and country, and oh how they saw the difference. Now a fixture in both line-ups, Rogic’s performances haven’t gone by unnoticed with the likes of Arsenal reportedly sniffing around his signature last summer.
For Celtic, Rogic continues to improve year on year. As said, two seasons back injuries held him back for making a sustained impact on the first team, last campaign he started to prove his worth; scoring 8 goals over the season. This year he’s doing even better under a manager in Brendan Rodgers who has fully got the best out of his midfielder. He’s already scored six goals in 14 appearances in the league along with four more in other cup competitions, suggesting that this could well be a defining season for the Aussie as an inevitable transfer away from Celtic Park draws nearer.
An early memory from 2016 for Rogic came in the Scottish Cup semi-final with arch rivals Rangers. After a game where he made a lot of space for himself, bringing others into play, Rogic capped his performance with a goal so typical of so many before it. Almost Frank Lampard-esque, he judges his runs to perfection if needed, as was the case at Hamden Park that day, checking his run to pick up the cut back to score the crucial equaliser in extra time.
For Rogic it wasn’t to be his day however, as he went on to sky the pivotal penalty to allow Rangers access to the final. It shows how highly he’s thought of at Celtic, as he received little criticism, even those who pointed to a dodgy pitch as he scooped the ball high over the bar. That support has been repaid tenfold, as he’s become a key part of the side that won yet another Scottish title last season and a side that are already 19 points clear this.
Our former Asian football chief Amro Alkado, as his Twitter handle expresses, is a Scot and keen follower of the Scottish Premiership, gave his assessment of Rogic’s year: “Rogic has consolidated his good form this season both in SPFL and has shown he can cut it at Champions League level also. Scored some important goals as well especially against Motherwell away (which was a fantastic game).”
As his influence grew domestically, so did his role for the national team. Before he’s been a well utilised player for Ange Postecoglou, but in big games has often missed out. However, since March, his place has been nailed down, going on to start all five of Australia’s Round 3 qualifiers. That period in March was key, as he brought the goods, scoring three over their two ties with Tajikistan and Jordan in two matches where Australia looked at their very best going forward. He also gained further admirers as he excelled in England against the Three Lions; there may have been a few too many pot shots from distance, but he picked up more than a few extra fans from South of the border with some neat interplay in the final third.
It since has been the formula that Postecoglou has persisted with; Rogic playing at the tip of the diamond, either floating around the edge of the area waiting for a crack on a goal or timing those trademark last minute runs into the box when playing on the counter. His all-round game has blossomed with the sustained minutes under his belt; gone is his trait of often coming off greedy, taking a shot when it wasn’t on, developing instead into a spatially aware midfielder who can assist as well as score.
Highlight of the Year – Debut UEFA Champions League goal
From 2016, Rogic will probably look back at Celtic’s UEFA Champions League group stage campaign as something to remember. The games against Barcelona and Manchester City at Parkhead were special events that will no doubt give something to a player that can only develop him into the big game player, he’ll one time become.
However, it was prior to that when he notched his debut Champions League goal, in the crucial playoff win over Hapoel Be’er Sheva. Rogic opened the scoring in a one-sided contest, pouncing on a keeper’s mistake to coolly slot it home past the retreating defence. An assured finish from a player who continues to grow in reputation.