Celtic defender Cameron Carter-Vickers feels getting up to speed in competitive matches following knee surgery is the “perfect” solution after playing through pain for most of last season.
The centre-back played the full game as Celtic began their Premiership campaign with a 4-2 win over Ross County last Saturday, despite only getting 45 minutes of pre-season action.
“That’s how I want to do it,” he said ahead of Sunday’s trip to Aberdeen. “The best way to get fitness is to play games, so it’s perfect for me.
“I feel good, even though I didn’t train with the team until about 10 days ago, I was running on my own for a while. So physically I feel good and I’m ready to play.”
Carter-Vickers had been out for three months after being booked in for knee surgery immediately after Celtic’s Scottish Cup semi-final win over Rangers.
The 25-year-old had been troubled by knee pain for the majority of the campaign but it was not evident in his impressive performances.
“It was quite a while,” he said. “Long before Christmas I initially did it. The pain wasn’t bad consistently, there were lows and highs, but it was definitely something I needed to get sorted and now that it is I am in a good spot.
“My understanding of the injury was, the likelihood was it was never going to get worse in terms of the actual damage in the knee.
“So it wasn’t too much of a risk. It was just mainly pain management. Some weeks I maybe wouldn’t train at the start of the week, I would just come in towards the end of the week to be ready for the game.
“It was about managing the pain and trying to play 90 minutes at the weekend really.
“I wanted to go as far as I could with it. I wanted to be there to help the team if I could and I still felt I could contribute in a positive way.
“I knew I needed it done but my view was that I would be guided by the management and the physios as to when it should happen.
“They thought that when I did get it done would be the best time, when we had most things wrapped up from last season and also to be ready for the beginning of this season.”
With the league all but wrapped up, the former Tottenham player put in a man-of-the-match display as Celtic beat Rangers to secure a Scottish Cup final meeting with Inverness.
“I knew that was going to be my last game before I played it,” he said. “Not much changed for me mentally, I went out there and tried to perform and help the team. But it was a bit of a weird feeling for me after the game.”
The United States international felt as much a part of Celtic’s title and treble-winning celebrations as if he had his strip on.
And he said: “I enjoyed the cup final to be honest. I was there in my suit watching the game and we won.
“I’m not a real over-thinker. When I’m fit I will play the best I can and when I’m not I can’t do much about it so I just get on with it.”
He formed a successful defensive partnership with Carl Starfelt last season before the Swede’s departure to Celta Vigo last week.
But he is now looking forward to building a similar relationship with new recruit Maik Nawrocki after the pair starting their first competitive game together last weekend.
He said: “Training is key, speaking to each other out on the training pitch and letting each other know where we want each other to be.
“Games as well, there’s nothing like a game to see his natural tendencies, him learning mine and then from there you can feed off each other.
“You see the qualities Maik has in training, he’s a very, very good player. It’s just time, all defensive connections take time and that’s what we and the team needs.”