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The promising Australian playmaker has found time on the pitch hard to come by for his Scottish club this season, but Guy Hand says it isn't time to panic just yet

OPINION
By Guy Hand

When Tom Rogic came on for the final 10 minutes of Celtic's Champions League match against AC Milan, it was his 51st top-level senior appearance.

He has played the full 90 minutes - from kick-off to final whistle - in just six of those games. Seven, if you count the A-League match in which he was sent off during stoppage time.

The truth is Rogic has barely played. His career has barely started. Three years ago, he was playing local league football. And he's still scarily good.

But the argument is being forcefully made that more game-time is essential for both the 20-year-old's immediate future and that of the Socceroos.

Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou - and pretty much anyone interested in Australian football with access to a public forum - is saying Rogic must play more than he does at Celtic, where he is being used off the bench.

But the real question should be does Rogic's skill-set currently suit a full 90 minutes for club or country?

Right now, is he better off to play 60 to 70 minutes from the start and create as much as he can? Or stride boldly among tired legs for the final half-hour of a match as an impact player to break it open?

Every coach he's played for - including Postecoglou against Costa Rica - appears to favour those two options as opposed to keeping him on the park for the full 90 minutes.

Right now, I wonder if playing every minute of every match week-in, week-out in the Scottish Premier League will necessarily grow Rogic as a player.

Cotton wool and care may be the best option for him until next year's World Cup.

After all, you wouldn't use a Lamborghini for your daily work commute, racking up the junk k's as you go.

There is no doubt Rogic is a phenomenal talent. He should play for more than a decade for the Socceroos, and eventually become a 90-minute player. There is more than a touch of Ned Zelic or Paul Okon about the balance and poise with which he glides through midfield into attack.

But rather than say he must play for the sake of playing - and immediately - the bigger picture must be looked at.

Celtic may or may not have been the right club move for Rogic. Well, he's there now. Rogic had choices, and chose Scotland. Manager Neil Lennon has made it clear his players is going nowhere to placate Australia's national team, even on loan.

On signing Rogic, Lennon said he was someone he felt would take "two or three years to blossom into the player we hope he can be".

Let's hope his motivation may be the counter-argument to the one everyone else is making - that sometimes young players should be eased into senior football, the gifted ones particularly.

It's worth remembering there were games for Central Coast late in his A-League stint when Rogic was given a right kicking at times in midfield. Imagine the same happening in a gritty first half in a Scottish league game.

And has he really got the engine at this stage of his career to stand up to every game, every week, and still be a factor at the World Cup?

The worst thing for the Socceroos would be for such an asset to be burned out, or kicked out of action ahead of Brazil.

There's no doubt at the World Cup, Rogic will show the world how good he is - either off the bench or as a starter.

Right now, the most important thing is deciding which is the best way to use this rare talent for the Socceroos in Brazil and beyond. Not just playing for the sake of it.

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