John Kennedy believes Vasilis Barkas’s end-of-season return between the sticks for Celtic can help with a fresh start next season.
The Greece goalkeeper was signed on a four-year deal from AEK Athens for a reported fee of £5million last summer but has endured a tough first campaign in Scotland.
The Hoops struggled then ultimately failed to win their 10th successive Premiership title while also losing the League Cup and Scottish Cup which formed their previous quadruple-treble domestic successes.
The 26-year-old lost his place but after a finger injury to Scott Bain he returned for the first time since January for the 4-0 home win over St Johnstone last Wednesday and a goalless draw against Hibernian at Easter Road on Saturday.
Interim boss Kennedy told Celtic TV: “It has probably been two games where he has not been overly tested, which is a good thing because it means the rest of the team are doing what they should be doing.
“But he has been assured, good with the ball, doing his job as well as he could so it was good for him to come back in.
“He has had a difficult season, several players have, but especially someone coming in to replace Fraser Forster and there has been a change of culture, lots of challenges and he has had to deal with that himself.
“He has had a period out the team, he comes in for the last couple of games and hopefully that sets him up well for next season.”
After making his debut against the Perth side in midweek, 18-year-old winger turned left-back Adam Montgomery came on late in the second half against Hibs and again pleased Kennedy.
The former Celtic defender said: “I am really happy with him in terms of where he has come from.
“He has probably only played a handful of games as a full-back but when he has come into first-team training he has been absolutely terrific.
“The way he attacks training every day, he is a really humble boy who wants to get better all the time.
“He has slowly improved and he has been ready for it for probably the last two months.
“So we gave him that in midweek, it was the first game he had played in six months or so and we gave him a little taste of it again which will set him up well for his future.”
Hibs had third place secured before Celtic’s visit and now turn their attention to the Scottish Cup final against St Johnstone at Hampden Park next Saturday.
Manager Jack Ross said: “I’ve said to the players they have to enjoy the week and the build-up. There will be an excitement.”
It was Israel keeper Ofir Marciano’s last game at Easter Road after five years at the club and he told HibsTV: “When I was a little boy I dreamed of playing with clubs like this and in stadiums like this so it was a dream come true.
“I appreciate every moment I had at the club and I am happy that we managed to finish on a high.
“This has been a good year. I enjoyed every day and we finished in a position we haven’t finished in a while, and we have a good chance to win the cup. It is the best season I had here so I am happy.”