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BACK PAGE BULLETIN: POPULAR PLAYER IN CELTIC LINK, EX-DON’S DERBY DELIGHT, PAISLEY BOSS WANTS ACTION REPLAY

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FILIP BENKOVIC looks to be heading out of Leicester City on loan in January – and that has sparked speculation of a return to Celtic.

Brendan Rodgers brought the Croatian central defender to Parkhead at the start of last season and he slotted in well beside Dedryck Boyata before injury forced him onto the sidelines in the run-in to the historic treble treble campaign.

The ball-playing defender caught up with the ex-Hoops gaffer in the summer after his temporary transfer at the champions expired.

However, Benkovic, who cost £13million when he joined from Dinamo Zagreb shortly before his switch to Celtic, has yet to make a first-team appearance, with Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu preferred at the heart of the rearguard.

Rodgers is keen for the 22-year-old to get game-time and that may tempt Neil Lennon who has an ongoing injury problem with the centre-half’s countryman Jozef Simunovic.

During his time in Scotland, Benkovic made it clear he would be open to an extension to his contract with the Hoops.

He made 27 appearances and scored two goals, one against Hearts and the other against Dundee.

The popular Benkovic also picked up a League Cup winner’s medal in the Hampden victory over Aberdeen in December when Ryan Christie scored the only goal of the game.

The champions are light on cover in the middle of the defence where right-back Hatem Abd Elhamed had to play alongside Christopher Jullien after Nir Bitton limped off during the 2-0 win at Ibrox last month.

GRAEME SHINNIE, the former Aberdeen skipper, was Derby County’s stoppage-time hero in the 1-0 Championship success over Wigan last night.

The versatile defender/midfielder netted in second minute of added-on time to condemn the visitors to yet another defeat on their travels, It was the player’s first goal in eight months.

Shinnie, who agreed a three-year deal with the Midlands side in July this year, left his Scotland international team-mate David Marshall helpless with his drive from just inside the box.

Wigan’s woeful away run has seen only two league wins from 30 matches since promotion from League One 17 months ago.

JIM GOODWIN is hoping his St Mirren players can repeat the performance that downed St Johnstone 2-0 when they take on Kilmarnock at Rugby Park at the weekend.

The Paisley outfit kept their fourth home clean sheet against the rock-bottom Perth side as they won their first games in six.

Goodwin, in a report in the Daily Record, said: “Hopefully, we can build on that performance and result.

“It’s not a case that one individual pulled us through the game. It was a real collective effort and performance. The way they managed the game in the second-half was a credit to them.

“We have a meeting every Monday after the game and go through the positives and negatives. There’s always plenty of both.

“Once it’s done that game is gone, there’s no point thinking about it anymore.

“After that we’re focusing on the next game against Kilmarnock. The application there needs to be exactly the same as it was against St Johnstone.”

 

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Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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