Celtic winger Nicolas Kuhn steps up fitness for title challenge

Celtic winger Nicolas Kuhn steps up fitness for title challenge

Nicolas Kuhn’s summer to this point has been one of sacrifice as he prepares for his first full season as a Celtic player.

An extended break was eschewed in favour of a few days in the Greek sunshine and a brief catch-up with friends and family.

A commitment to ensuring he returned to Lennoxtown in peak physical condition was mandatory if he is going to make up for lost time in a Hoops jersey.

The winger, a £3million signing from Rapid Vienna, arrived in Glasgow in January after suffering a dramatic weight loss following the removal of a wisdom tooth. By the time he felt ready to roll, he was struggling to get into Brendan Rodgers’ starting side and battling the court of public opinion.

The 24-year-old German needs no one to tell him that he will have to hit the ground running in the new campaign. Notwithstanding the health concerns that clearly affected his early displays, he has to change the way fans see him.

Kuhn is determined to be a stronger presence in Celtic team next season

The German winger had lost weight when he arrived in January after dental surgery

The German winger had lost weight when he arrived in January after dental surgery

He is convinced, however, that the measures he’s taken in recent weeks will do just that.

‘I think there was a special reason for why I lost the weight,’ he said.

‘By the end of the season, I had put the weight back on, but I was still at a new club in a new country. Also, when I came in, it wasn’t an easy moment for the whole club.

‘I knew it was going to be important for me to come back for a full pre-season and start from the beginning with the rest of the team. So, it’s going to be a little bit different this year.’

Sitting in the media room at Celtic’s training ground on Tuesday, Kuhn looked a different physical specimen to the slight figure who’d walked through the same door at the turn of the year. This is the consequence of doing the hard yards.

‘I went for a couple of days to Greece and then back to Germany,’ he explained of a curtailed break.

‘I’ve always been in contact with my personal trainer back in Germany over the summer and he has been in touch with the people at Celtic. It was perfect.

‘They sent me a plan and I did all the work during my vacation so that I’m prepared.

Winger Kuhn scores against Aberdeen last February and hopes for more goals next term

Winger Kuhn scores against Aberdeen last February and hopes for more goals next term

Kuhn jumps for joy after scoring for the Parkhead side against St Johnstone in March

Kuhn jumps for joy after scoring for the Parkhead side against St Johnstone in March

Kuhn takes part in a training session at Lennoxtown earlier this week

Kuhn takes part in a training session at Lennoxtown earlier this week

‘Sometimes you can eat a burger or something like that, but it wasn’t the main dish! So, no, I’m in a good place and the summer was good, but now I’m here to get back to work.

‘It feels like my Celtic career starts now. That is the goal.

‘I just want to have a good pre-season, stay fit, and show everyone. I hope it’s time for the real thing after the introduction.’

For all he didn’t contribute to the cause as much as he would have liked, Kuhn still gained much from the experience.

After a season of no little stress, thanks largely to a stronger challenge from Rangers, Celtic won the double. The winger feels that every player who endured the hard times and prevailed will be much the better for it.

‘I think it will help us. It was not always easy, but it brought us even closer together and, in the end, we did well.

‘After the 3-3 against Rangers, we won every game. There’s nothing more to say about that.’

In the many moments when the league looked like a long shot, some close to the club started losing their minds. Crucially for Kuhn, Rodgers never did.

‘It was nice for me to see when someone stays calm,’ he said. ‘I think other coaches would maybe get a little bit stressful.

‘The way he talks, the presence he has, it was always calm. He would tell us that, in the end, we’d get there if we worked hard. He told us not to let the things people talk about bother us, and not to get too close to things.

‘That was the message he sent out to us. We followed that and we got there.’

In what feels like a blink of an eye, the achievements of last season are being set to one side. At Celtic, players rarely have time to rest on their laurels.

‘I’ve played at a couple of clubs where they also want to win every trophy there is,’ Kuhn said.

‘So, I know the mentality. Those players like Callum McGregor and James Forrest are the role models. They show you that it’s all about winning trophies.

‘That’s what we’ll try to do next year as well.’

Wednesday night’s friendly with Queen’s Park is Celtic’s last before the squad head to the US to face D C United, Manchester City and Chelsea. The tough schedule should help hone preparations not only for the domestic kick-off but the bigger tests that lie in wait.

‘It’s really important for us to have those tests against big teams in America,’ said Kuhn.

‘It’s great preparation for the Champions League as well, and good for us to see where we stand.’

German star Kuhn joins his Celtic team-mates in a training session this week

German star Kuhn joins his Celtic team-mates in a training session this week

Two years ago, Kuhn was sent out on loan by Bayern Munich to lowly Erzgebirge Aue in the German second division.

Within a matter of weeks, he could be jousting against the biggest names on the continent in a green and white shirt.

‘I did an interview when I was there, and I said that my goal is to one day play in the Champions League and one day get back in the national team.

‘Not everyone would have thought it would have gone so quickly (to play in Europe’s elite tournament). But I always knew I had the ability to get there.

‘That was always the dream and the goal. I didn’t really think about not getting there. I am happy that it has happened within two and a half years.’

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