LIKE so many supporters who visit Celtic Park on Champions League nights, Kristoffer Ajer has sat captivated by what is unfolding all around him. He is hoping that this season though, he can actually experience such an occasion from the field of play.

The Norwegian defender has yet to play in a Champions League group stage match, and the experience from his vantage point on the Celtic bench two years ago as the likes of Paris Saint Germain swept into town has whetted his appetite to finally be at the heart of the action.

What also drives the 21-year-old on is the tragic story of his coach at Celtic, John Kennedy, whose career was curtailed by a knee injury, making him even more determined to not only make those special memories, but really savour them too.

“We always want to go through so this year it’s definitely one of our mains targets,” Ajer said.

“If you get through, you are playing against the best teams in the world and for young and experienced players that a great experience, especially at Celtic Park. You don’t get a more unbelievable atmosphere to play in on those nights. It’s fantastic.

“I actually haven’t played in the group stages yet so that’s something which would be a big achievement as well. I’ve been on the bench a few times but haven’t quite made it onto the park.

“But it was still an incredible experience being that close. Celtic fans are the best in the world and when it’s an evening game against a big name there is nothing which can beat it.

“To sit on the bench was an incredible experience and I’m sure it’s a fantastic experience as well to play. So, it would be great to qualify.

“[John]’s story shows you that you have to remember to enjoy every single part of it.

“That’s what you have to do as a Celtic player. There are always games coming up but it’s always important to look back and really think about what you have achieved.

“You need to have a nice mix between looking back and looking forward.”

Kennedy’s experience isn’t just a cautionary tale to Ajer, it is a daily help as the former Scotland centre-back helps him to improve his game. Although, it may be surprising to learn that the teacher has yet to share some tales of his own derring-do in the Champions League as a player with one of his star pupils.

“He’s been fantastic from the minute I came in,” he said. “We’ve been working really close together after every single session, working on the defensive part of my game.

“He’s been helping me every single day. He’s been fantastic for me. I’ve not seen clips of him as a player, but he keeps telling me that he was fantastic!

“Every time I do something wrong he will show me and, to be fair, he’s got a great right-foot, so he shows me how it should be done. Then I try to learn from him.

“He hasn’t mentioned his performance in Barcelona yet, but I know he was a great player who injured his knee which was obviously sad. But the way he’s been teaching me has been fantastic.

“I’m really looking forward to the season ahead. I’m still young and have lots to learn but I feel like I developed really well last year and I’m in a much better place this pre-season than last year.”

With the arrival of Christopher Jullien at the club, Celtic manager Neil Lennon now has the opportunity to field a pairing between the Frenchman and Ajer that would have a combined height of 12 foot and 10 inches. Even if either is paired with Jozo Simunovic, it would only knock two inches off that total.

Those are figures perhaps more common in an NBA side rather than a football team, although it is probably just as well Ajer plumped for a career in the latter.

“I can’t play basketball so the height wouldn’t help us if we had a team,” he said. “We don’t do that in Norway – we go skiing instead.

“I’m one metre 97 so I don’t know if I’ll still be the tallest player in the team.

“Christopher is another experienced centre-half who’ll bring a lot of qualities to the team.

“We have so many good defenders. Jozo Simunovic was fantastic in the second half of last season and there are many top centre-halves.

“It’s always good to bring in even more quality into the dressing room.

“He’ll bring competition for places. That’s the way it is here. There will always be competition and a strong, strong squad fighting every day to play. That’s nothing new here.

“The qualifiers are high pressure games. It’s a big, big aim for the club to reach the group stages.

“When you have to play eight games before that it’s tough but that’s our job and we have to cope with that.

“There will be tough moments along the way. We’re playing teams who’ve got the same targets as us.

‘We’ll play some really strong teams who have won the league in their countries. But we come into every single game looking to win it.