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Greg Taylor has warned Diego Laxalt he has a fight on his hands if he wants to reclaim his Celtic slot.
Taylor started the season as Neil Lennon’s first-choice left-back only to be relegated to the bench when AC Milan ace Laxalt arrived on loan in October.
But the former Kilmarnock defender was recalled for last week’s draw at Livingston and started again on Wednesday night as the Hoops finally claimed their first win of 2021 against Hamilton.
Laxalt, 27, impressed when he first arrived from Italy but the Uruguay international has faded recently.
And now Taylor believes it is his chance to show what he can do.
“There’s going to be competition in every place at Celtic,” said Taylor. “It’s a massive club. You can only do your best when you get the opportunities.
“And certainly of recent, hopefully I’ve done enough to keep my place.
“Learning-wise, I speak to the coaches every day and learn that way. There’s also analysis of my own performances and what I can do better.
“And if Diego plays, he’ll probably do the same.
“It’s competition and there’s a jersey up for grabs – it’s one I want to keep.
“We got the win against Hamilton and a clean sheet, hopefully it’s enough for me to keep the jersey for the next game.”
The numbers certainly strengthen Taylor’s case.
While the Scotland cap has created 22 chances in 14 Premiership games this season – with four leading to goals – Laxalt has managed to tee-up just four opportunities for team-mates during his 11 league appearances and has yet to lay on an actual domestic assist since making his move from Italy.
Yet even with 13 first-team players having to isolate after Christopher Jullien’s positive Covid test earlier this month, Taylor could still not force his way into Lennon’s makeshift line-up for the draws with Hibernian and Livi at home.
But credit to the 23-year-old, who refused to sulk as he found himself stuck among the substitutes again.
He said: “Diego was still fit at that point. At a club this size there’s going to be competition and the gaffer’s got a decision to make every game.
“For those couple of games he went with Diego and I was still one of the most experienced players available. So it was about still being good around the boys.
“And when the chance came up again for me I had to make sure I took it.”
A win over a Hamilton side rooted to the bottom of the table is not something Celtic would normally crow over but given their difficulties this season, Taylor and his team-mates must take solace from any source they can.
He said: “It was important for us to win. We hadn’t won in four, so it was really important to change that. It’s something to build on. We looked closer to where we want to be.
“We’ve been criticised, and probably rightly so, for some of our results and performances. We’re big enough to take that.
“Now the win over Accies has given us something to build on and we move on to Saturday now.
“I’ve learned lots this season. It’s been hard at stages.
“There have been lows at times. But in football you’ve just got to learn from them. Hopefully, as the season’s progressed I’ve been able to do that.
“It’s about finishing the season as strongly as possible.
“We can’t afford to drop many more points, if any, so we’ve just got to take each game as it comes and try to put ourselves as far up the table as we can.”