NEIL LENNON looked on as Beram Kayal took the Celtic supporters by storm when he first arrived in Glasgow, hoping he would manage to hold on to him long enough to build a team around the Israeli.
Now, after a series of injury problems which have curtailed his career, the Parkhead boss believes he is now witnessing a return to top form from the midfielder and is hoping he can now stamp his authority on the team once again.
Kayal has only recently returned to full fitness and, during his time on the sidelines, he has watched Victor Wanyama become the main man in the middle of the park as well as excellent displays from the likes of Joe Ledley, Scott Brown and Kris Commons.
Such has been the scale of the impact Wanyama has had at Parkhead this season – his form prompted Lennon to place a £25million price tag on him – that Kayal was in danger of becoming the forgotten man to a certain extent.
But he has been in terrific form of late, a sentiment echoed by his manager.
Lennon said: "It's great to see Beram back to full fitness again and playing as well as he is. He's had an injury-ravaged start to the season with his ankle problems, but we know what a good player he is and we just had to get him games.
"I thought he was brilliant again at the weekend against St Mirren and back to his very best. He had a fine game last weekend as well and he is a very important piece of the jigsaw here."
Lennon had only just secured the services of the then relatively unknown 23-year-old from Maccabi Haifa on a four-year deal when his early performances in the green and white attracted the attention of Barclays Premier League clubs.
His dominant displays in the middle of the park earned him immediate hero status in the eyes of the Parkhead punters, and it was not long before a number of leading clubs south of the border were paying close attention.
As interest intensified, Kayal and Celtic suffered a huge blow when the midfielder was sidelined for three months through injury.
The following season, it was pretty much the same again – impressive performances and then long spells out through injury.
However, Lennon is hoping the player can remain fit for the remainder of this campaign and have a big influence on the team.
THE Celtic manager said: "He is a competitive midfield player, but has been unlucky with various injuries during his time at the football club.
"But when he has been fit and playing, he has always shown what a good player he is and it's great to have him back. Beram offers us another really good option in an area where we really do have a lot of good players.
"Victor has been great for us in there. So has Joe Ledley. And Scott Brown as well. There have also been occasions when we've used Charlie Mulgrew and Kris Commons in the hole.
"There is stiff competition but that's what we want."
Lennon once again went with a 3-5-2 formation and he hinted he might continue to play such a system until James Forrest is back to full fitness.
"With his pace and the way he plays, we might revert back to four midfielders when he is back," he explained.
"He is just about there so we might look at things again, and it's the same situation with Kris Commons, who isn't that far away either.
"But we've played well with the three at the back. We've got Adam Matthews wide on the right who can get up and down the park all day.
"It's the same on the other side with Charlie Mulgrew. The guys at the back are all comfortable and know what is expected of them.
"We don't want to become predictable, so we'll constantly be looking at the shape and the players available, and maybe make a change here or there."
Having finally opened up a gap at the top of the table, Lennon wants his players to focus on the domestic scene.
He added: "The Champions League draw takes place on Thursday and it's exciting and great to be in the hat for the last 16.
"But the games don't take place for another couple of months so we'll not be thinking too much about it until then.
"We will be gathering as much information as possible, but the players will be focusing on the domestic games.
"We are now four points clear with a game in hand, which is pleasing. Hopefully we can go on a wee run now in the league."