CALLUM McGREGOR has backed Greek international keeper Vasilis Barkas to answer his critics.
The £4.5million buy from AEK Athens in the summer arrived to replace fans’ favourite Fraser Forster when it became obvious the six times-capped England shotstopper he would be remaining at Southampton to see out the two years of his lucrative £90,000-per-week contract.
The Hoops had already agreed to allow Craig Gordon to leave at the end of his deal and the Scotland ace rejoined Hearts in the Championship.
That left Neil Lennon with only Scott Bain as his only netminder with first-team experience.
Barkas answered the call, but has failed to convince the snipers, despite an eye-catching performance against Ross County in Dingwall last week where he made three superb stops as the Hoops triumphed 5-0.
But the custodian was back in the firing line yesterday when he allowed a 30-yarder from Jullien Serrano to beat him for Livingston’s second goal in a hard-fought 3-2 victory for the champions that lifted them back into top place in the Premiership.
However, the goalkeeper has support from McGregor who reckons he is coping well with the pressure of being Celtic’s No.1.
WHAM…Vasilas Barkas stretches for Jullien Sarrano’s (extreme left) effort as it heads for the net.
CRASH…the ball explodes over the Greek keeper’s head for Livi’s second goal.
The Scotland international midfielder, speaking to the Sunday Mail, said: “Vasilis has been excellent since he came.
“It was probably a culture shock coming from Greece to a new club. But he’s done well and all the boys like him – he’s a nice guy with a good personality.
“He made a couple of big saves last week, so that will help him gain more confidence.
“It’s tough to follow someone like Fraser, but he has adapted well and has that stature about him, too.
“The club have bought him as a big-money signing, so everybody wants him to do well.
“He looks comfortable with the ball and can find those passes through the middle of the press, helping start attacks.”
IT TAKES TWO…Callum McGregor and Scott Brown after the equaliser.
McGregor, who hit the leveller against Livi before goals from Ryan Christie and Albian Ajeti finished the job, added: “The experienced players help new boys settle in and there are a lot of different cultures in a changing room now.
“It’s important for Scottish players to help the others as much as possible.
“Just little things like advising on the best place to stay or grab a coffee. These small things matter.
“And we have to educate some of the foreign lads on just how big the club is and the standards expected.”
McGregor and Barkas are likely to go into action again in Latvia on Thursday when Lennon’s side face Riga in the Europa League qualifier before they take on Hibs at Parkhead on Sunday.