Stephen Welsh can draw on 15 years of pressure at Celtic as another season moves towards a tense and exciting run-in.

The 24-year-old defender came through the club’s youth ranks before making his debut in February 2020 during a 4–1 win away to Hamilton.

Welsh has had to fight for game time since but has taken over recently from injured Cameron Carter-Vickers and he was again paired with Liam Scales for the trip to St Mirren on Sunday.

The Scottish champions have been criticised at times this season for their performances but the 2-0 Scottish Gas Scottish Cup win in Paisley, which set up a quarter-final clash with Livingston next month, made it eight wins and a draw in their last nine games.

Celtic also lead Rangers by three points at the top of the cinch Premiership, albeit the Light Blues having the chance to go top against Ross County at Ibrox on Wednesday night with their game in hand.

Welsh, who signed a new four-year deal last August, said: “I’ve known the pressure for 15 years now. Every week you need to go and win.

“You enjoy it as well, you enjoy the pressure because you need to win. A draw or a defeat is a nightmare so yeah, we know the pressure and we stand up to it all the time.

“We are used to this. Every season the pressure for every Celtic player is huge.

“We deal with it really well. Especially the last couple of seasons, we have been very successful and it is about us maintaining the standards to be successful again and go and win the trophies that are available to us.

“There is always a determination in this group. Not only the quality but the character that we have.

“We have a lot of experienced players who have won trophies. We won a treble last season so the experience we have in the team is excellent.

“We take every game 100 per cent, every training session leads up to the next game so for us, it is normal for us to be under that pressure and we always deal with it very well.

“We are always strong together. We know that every team wants to beat Celtic and our job is to win games, perform well and win trophies for the club.”

Welsh is delighted to be back in the first team and enjoyed a tough test against the Buddies who succumbed to goals from Japanese duo Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda.

He said: “It was a frustrating first few months, I had a bad injury and was out for four or five months so to get back into the swing of things, that is my first 90 minutes in a while so delighted with the clean sheet as well. Joe Hart had to make a couple of saves but that is what he is there for.

“They are a physical team and they like to put balls in the  box.

“It is very effective for them. We had to deal with it and I thought we dealt with it well as a back four and Joe included.

“We are together, we are really a united team so we will move forward.”

Cameron Carter-Vickers could be in line for a surprise recall when Celtic host Lazio in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The centre-back has not played since suffering a hamstring injury against Aberdeen on August 13.

With Gustaf Lagerbielke missing through suspension following his red card in the Group E opener against Feyenoord, and Maik Nawrocki and Stephen Welsh still out through injury, Rodgers has limited options in central defence.

Liam Scales is set to continue in the team following his impressive recent form, while on-loan Liverpool Nat Phillips is available after coming off the bench at Motherwell on Saturday to make his first appearance since suffering an ankle injury on his debut against Dundee on September 16.

Manager Brendan Rodgers said: “In terms of Nat, he came through fine so he will be available.

“Cam, we wouldn’t take a risk unless he was fit. He has come through really, really well. He is further down the road than we thought.

“He has had a real good week of training and he’s been doing lots of other work out on the field before that.

“I said before that it (his return) might have been after the international break but he’s made great progress, so we will just assess that to see if he can be in for the squad (on Wednesday) and if he is, then obviously it would be great news for us.”

Stephen Welsh is looking forward to “kicking on” under Brendan Rodgers after coming in from the cold under the new manager to sign a four-year deal with Celtic.

The 23-year-old defender’s previous contract was due to expire at the end of this season and it looked like his time with his boyhood club might be nearing an end when he fell out of favour under previous boss Ange Postecoglou.

However, academy graduate Welsh, who has been linked with moves away from Parkhead in recent transfer windows, made his first appearance in 10 months when he came on as a substitute for the injured Cameron Carter-Vickers in Sunday’s 3-1 cinch Premiership win over Aberdeen.

And, having impressed Rodgers since he returned to Celtic as manager earlier this summer, the homegrown centre-back has earned a long-term extension until 2027.

“Signing a new contract for the club that I’ve been brought up on and have supported my whole life was, for me, an easy decision,” Welsh told Celtic TV after the deal was announced on Friday.

“It’s time for me to kick on now and hopefully I can have a few good seasons. I want to keep improving and continue to play as many games as I can, especially with the manager in now. He’s been massive for me since he’s come in.

“He’s one of the main reasons that I want to be at the club and I’m just looking forward to starting the season properly and going for it.”

Welsh, who has made 53 appearances for Celtic since his debut in February 2020, will compete with Carter-Vickers and new signings Maik Nawrocki and Gustaf Lagerbielke for a centre-back berth as he bids to follow the lead of fellow academy graduates Callum McGregor and James Forrest by establishing himself as a regular starter.

“At a club of this stature, competition for places is going to be everywhere, all over the pitch,” he said. “So for me it’s natural to keep working hard, keep improving and show that the manager can trust me to go in and play.

“Thankfully he’s done that so far and now we’ll look ahead to the season and hopefully more opportunities to come.

“The boys will still look to Cal and Jamesy. They’re still the main two lads who have been there and done it and I’m still trying to work towards a level so that I can get to that.

“But for the new boys coming in, it’s just about realising the pressure that comes with every single game and every single training session. You need to perform to the highest level and win every game.

“Over the past few years we’ve done that really well and the new signings coming in have adapted to that really well, so I think we’ve got good things ahead for us.

“To be at Celtic is all I can ask for and I will give 100 per cent to the club and hopefully do everyone proud.”

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