3 Celtic youngsters who could make first-team breakthrough next season

By Sean Clifford

April 26, 2021

Without doubt, Celtic will need to prioritise the pursuit of youth development next campaign.

The Bhoys have produced some wonderful youth products such as Kieran Tierney, Callum McGregor, and James Forrest in the past decade. However, there is an argument that a consistent pathway for youngsters to the first team has not been entirely forthcoming in recent years.

Needing to modernise, Celtic cannot afford to let elite prospects slip through their fingers. Examples of Cameron Harper and Liam Hughes leaving for New York Red Bulls and Liverpool respectively, illustrate the need for wide-scale change in order to grant youths senior opportunities.

Possessing wide-scale talent, here are three Celtic academy products who could make a first-team breakthrough next season.

Barry Coffey

Currently on loan at Belfast side Cliftonville, the rangy Irishman retains an ability to initiate purposeful passages of play. Highly thought of at Lennoxtown, the 20-year-old scored his first senior goal with a piledriver in a 5-0 drubbing of Carrick Rangers at home last Saturday [BBC].

Always looking to make himself available for a pass, Coffey recycles possession with relative ease. This has seen him become an ever-present at his new loan club, making 11 appearances for the Irish League side [Transfermarkt]. Fundamentally, the Hoops have lacked energy and bite in midfield in recent months.

Coffey has routinely brought these traits to the fore at youth team and first-string level. Having initially beaten off both Manchester clubs and Chelsea for his signature [Daily Record], he could be a key Celtic player for a long time to come.

Scott Robertson

Sticking to the middle of the park, another youngster who is soon to make a breakthrough is Celt Scott Robertson. Presently plying his trade on loan at English third-tier side Doncaster Rovers, his qualities could be of use to Celtic next season.

Of course, the Scot has featured once before in a hooped jersey. His solitary Celtic outing came against CFR Cluj on Europa League duty. In a 2-0 defeat, Robertson was arguably the best Bhoys player on the pitch in a low-key affair [Daily Record].

Celtic talent Scott Robertson / (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Though surprising Robertson hasn’t added to his time on the pitch for Celtic, he has gained vast experience in Sky Bet League One in the last year. Initially commencing 2020/21 with Gillingham before moving to Doncaster Rovers, he has played 30 times [Transfermarkt].

Impressing with his fleet-footed nature and composure on the ball, he has achieved a passing accuracy of 85.3% which makes for promising reading [WhoScored]. Arguably, Robertson is competing against teams of a similar standard to the lower ebbs of Scottish Premiership football. This will stand him in good stead to make an impact at Parkhead in the near future.

Leo Hjelde

Hailing from Norway, growing excitement surrounds Hoops youngster Leo Hjelde. Temporarily residing on loan at Ross County [Daily Record], he had admirably dealt with the challenges thrust upon him in the Highlands.

Hjelde has played in 10 separate clashes for the Staggies, demonstrating his ability to play out from the back and defend with solidity. Garnering obvious comparisons with fellow countryman Kristoffer Ajer, he has won 1.6 median tackles per 90 minutes this campaign [WhoScored].

Celtic youngster Leo Hjelde / (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Furthermore, his awareness to danger is apparent. Keeping a tally of 1.8 interceptions per game [WhoScored], he is learning to deal with precarious situations with relative comfort.

He has also been labelled the ‘next Virgil Van Dijk’ by friend of 67 Hail Hail John Hughes [Daily Record]. If he can reach anywhere near the levels Van Dijk produced in Glasgow, Celtic will have one hell of a player on their hands.