Darren O'Dea explains how Celtic Academy talents now have easier first-team route

By Euan Davidson

October 20, 2021

Celtic coach Darren O’Dea was himself an Academy player who made it to the big-time with his boyhood club.

O’Dea developed at the club, becoming a first-team fixture for four seasons with the Hoops [Transfermarkt]. The former Ireland international played in the Champions League, made 21 appearances for his country, and ended up playing in England, Ukraine, the MLS and in India.

Now in a coaching role, it’s important that Celtic youngsters have the same opportunity he did. That’s precisely what’s happening, O’Dea says, having been appointed to join Tommy McIntyre’s staff [Celtic FC].

With the introduction of the B Team, and youth players training alongside first-team talents at Lennoxtown, the route to the top is much clearer now, the Irishman insists.

O’Dea said [Celtic FC]:

“When the players first come, of course they’ve got big aspirations and they want to conquer the world, if you like. But the reality really hits when you come up to Lennoxtown – you’re one pitch away from the first-team at all times.

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“The first-team regularly dip into the B team for training numbers. It usually happens before training but it can happen during training, so they don’t know when the opportunity is going to come, and that realisation of all the talk we did when they were 16 and they first came in, and the big dreams they had – they’re much closer than what they maybe understand.

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“They have to be in a rhythm of training every day and being prepared right. I don’t think you’ll get a better example of that than last year with the whole reserve team going up for a two-week period.”

“So it’s a key message for them – those dreams you’re talking about, albeit the step is absolutely huge, it might not be as far away as you think.”

Celtic Academy talents have excellent chance, insists O’Dea

After years of frustration seeing Celtic Academy talents not make the grade, this is welcome news.

It’s clear Ange Postecoglou has no qualms playing youngsters, either. Dane Murray was thrown in for a Champions League qualifier. Adam Montgomery is a regular, and the likes of Moffat, Lawal, Oluwayemi and Vata have big futures ahead.

If anything, it’d be a huge shock not to see more B Team players make future match-day squads. There were signs of real potential in pre-season. Karamoko Dembele is another example, but his progress was impeded by a bad challenge before 21-22 even began.

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

The route is clear. Academy talents can train hard and immediately put themselves into contention. That’s something that’s been needed for a substantial time now.

While the B Team’s future is still in doubt, there’s surely got to be a way to continue the progress. Clearly, O’Dea is of the same mind.

Exciting times at Celtic.

Read more: Celtic top Barcelona weekend attendance figures on a Tuesday afternoon

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