Former Celtic attacker Shaun Maloney has expressed his pleasure at seeing young players at the club being given a chance by manager Neil Lennon.
Speaking to the Daily Record, the ex-Scotland international also praised the strength of the Hoops’ squad and has been impressed by how Lennon has integrated promising young talents into the first team given their budgetary constraints in comparison to English Premier League clubs – for example, Celtic’s record signing is Odsonne Edouard for £9m in 2018 (as per Sky Sports), less than a quarter of what Watford (19th in the Premier League) spent on Ismaila Sarr last year (£40m, as per Sky Sports).
Maloney said: “It’s all about a balance for Celtic’s recruitment and it’s common-sense that the market down south at the top end is one which they can’t keep up with. But they still have that pressure to win every match so they have to find a solution for that within their own budget.
“That can also encourage the younger players and recently they have shown there is a pathway for the younger players. If they are good enough then they will get their opportunity and that’s a really big positive for Celtic within the market they are in. It creates opportunity which is what the club’s foundations are known for.”
Maloney’s point about young players getting an opportunity at Celtic is a fair one, given that Lennon has turned to several youngsters over the course of the season.
Teenage right-back Jeremie Frimpong had yet to make a senior club appearance when he joined from Manchester City last September but has featured 16 times for the Hoops this season, scoring twice and nailing down a regular starting berth prior to getting injured at Kilmarnock two weeks ago. Ironically, his absence opened the door for 20-year-old right-back Stephen Welsh to make his senior debut against Hamilton on Sunday, with his performance being hailed by several Celtic fans afterwards.
Can Edouard surpass Dembele?
Karamoko Dembele is only 16 years of age but has been given first team game-time by Lennon, following up his debut against Hearts last May by featuring against CFR Cluj and Ross County over the last couple of months (as per TransferMarkt). Midfielder Scott Robertson has also been given his senior bow this term, playing against CFR Cluj in the Europa League and making the bench for a couple of other first team games under Lennon.
While those two have yet to establish themselves in the first team frame, academy graduate Mikey Johnston has managed to achieve that at the age of just 20. The winger has scored six goals in 21 appearances this season and has already clocked up 48 first team matches for the Hoops, 27 of which have come under Lennon’s management.
With he and Frimpong breaking into the first team and keeping their places, along with the likes of Welsh, Dembele and Robertson being given opportunities, Maloney is correct in saying that there is a discernible pathway to the senior ranks at Celtic for anyone who Lennon feels is good enough for that level.
His point about the Hoops being unable to compete with English Premier League budgets, meanwhile, is starkly illustrated by the respective transfer feeds paid for Edouard and Sarr, and therefore it is pleasing to see that the Parkhead club can unearth and polish young talents if they are priced out of the market for players from elsewhere.
Celtic fans, do you agree with Maloney’s views about youngsters getting a chance at Parkhead? Can you see young talents like Welsh and Dembele establishing themselves in the first team? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below!
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