Glasgow – Kundai Benyu’s signing was hailed as a coup for Celtic. Brendan Rodgers managed to convince the promising 19-year-old to snub Premier League big boys and head north back in 2017 and the confident teenager didn’t hesitate.
What followed, however, was not exactly what Benyu had in mind. The midfielder joined the Parkhead ranks while the Hoops were in the midst of their most successful period in recent years.
Rodgers’ charges were rampant. Benyu knew he’d have a fight on his hands to earn a spot.
What he couldn’t have envisaged, though, was the sheer grand scale of the challenge he faced.
It was a hugely frustrating period for the Zimbabwe international, who had already played a number of first-team games at a tender age albeit in the National League.
“I think timing played a massive part because when I got to Celtic the team was established and successful,” Benyu recalled in conversation with Football Scotland.
“It’s always difficult to change a winning team. The times I did play I enjoyed it, albeit it was frustrating because I wanted to play more, but that’s football.”
Now five years on and with more experience under his belt, Benyu does not reflect on his time at Celtic in a negative manner.
He does, however, remember feeling powerless to Rodgers’ decision not to involve him.
The Northern Irishman played a huge part in securing Benyu’s signature, going so far as to phone him personally to seal the deal.
But for forgotten man Benyu, things soured to an extent, and when he went banging on the boss’s door for assurances, he felt he was wrongly labelled.
“Celtic played Champions League and that was always appealing to me,” the player said when asked what attracted him to Parkhead.
“Brendan actually called me personally which was amazing. Aston Villa, Tottenham, West Ham and all the other clubs just sent representatives but Brendan calling was major for me.
“(Later) I wasn’t angry at all but I was really frustrated because I wasn’t given a fair chance.
“I believe in my ability and I was better than some people but it didn’t matter what I did in training, certain players would still get the nod ahead of me. If I said something, people would say I had a bad attitude, but I just wanted to play and show what I could do.
“I have no regrets but a lot was promised that wasn’t delivered.
“For a young player, the stadium and Champions League potential was so appealing and I did everything and beyond, it just didn’t work out.
“I try to be as professional as possible and I did knock on the door because I wanted to play and prove myself.
“I went to Celtic not to warm the bench but I understood we had experience and that’s what kept the team winning.
“It was always difficult not to blame anyone or point fingers at anyone, but in football you also need luck.”
Benyu’s time on the training pitch at Lennoxtown wasn’t a lengthy spell, as he was eventually shipped out to Oldham Athletic on loan after one senior appearance.
But he did have time to make pals.
And even in that short period of time, he identified one key Celtic player who has the ability to go as far as he fancies.
“I actually had a good relationship with everyone.
“But I got on really, really well with Nir (Bitton), Griff (Leigh Griffiths) and Odsonne (Edouard).
“Callum McGregor has every ability a top centre-midfielder in Europe has.
“He’s a top player and a good man as well.”