3 Celtic careers that can be reignited with Glasgow derby success

By David Walton

March 16, 2021

There are plenty of players whose Celtic careers won’t be affected by events on Sunday in the upcoming Glasgow derby.

After all, we know who’ll likely leave in the summer regardless. We also know who’ll probably be the main staples of our starting XI next year.

Added to that, you have the added aspect of the fact this game doesn’t mean anything regarding the league. 10-in-a-row dreams have been dashed and we’re left trying to salvage as much pride as we can as an alternative.

But even so, Sunday’s game can provide several Celtic players who may take part with a massive boost. And one that their Parkhead careers could really do with ahead of the summer. Here, we discuss those three players:

1. Albian Ajeti

Albian Ajeti has yet to score in a Glasgow derby / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

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Ah. Albian. Our £5million summer signing from West Ham United [Sky Sports]. The man who we all thought was going to shoot us to 10IAR and end the season as Scotland’s top goalscorer alongside Odsonne Edouard.

The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Ajeti netted five goals in his first six starts for the club. Since then, he’s netted once in the last six months. And it’s not as if he hasn’t had opportunities either – Albian has featured 17 times since his early goal rush ended [Transfermarkt].

In the last derby at Ibrox, Ajeti was left on the bench for 90 minutes when we were desperate for a goal. That wasn’t the plan when we signed him. The idea would’ve been that Albian would’ve started the game or at the very least came on with a substantial period of the game to go.

These days, he’s no closer to a run in the team. His season is petering out in an extremely insipid fashion. At times this season he’s looked overweight and extremely lacking in match sharpness.

Should he bag a goal against Rangers this weekend, however? That changes everything. It gives fans hope that there is indeed a fine footballer rooted within him. That he can do it against better quality sides and that he could have a role to play next season. Out of everyone, he could use a big derby moment.

2. Scott Bain

Celtic goalkeeper Scott Bain / (Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images)

Scott Bain is currently Celtic’s number one. But let’s not get it mixed up – he’s there because he’s, for now, deemed the best of a poor bunch this season.

Vasilis Barkas, Conor Hazard, and Bain have all had spells as the club’s top shot-stopper. These days it’s Bain’s turn, yet he hasn’t proven to be anything better than what we have since he was reintroduced back in January.

Bain has conceded 22 goals in only 17 games this season [Transfermarkt]. It’s a poor return for the game-time he’s had, with only six clean sheets secured. If I was to ask you to count five big saves from Bain this season, chances are you wouldn’t be able to. Too often do we see decent efforts fly into our net that really should’ve been kept out. This happens consistently with former Dundee man Bain between the sticks.

Since signing for Celtic back in 2018, Bain’s popularity peaked after a 3-2 win at Ibrox in March of that year. This came after denying Alfredo Morelos on a couple of occasions and clutching an absolute sitter the Colombian missed late on.

If Bain was to do similar on Sunday, and he’ll undoubtedly be worked, his stock would go back up. Supporters would appreciate him keeping our rivals out, especially if he has to produce in some big moments.

Morelos will out to break his derby scoring duck, whilst Kemar Roofe has also yet to net in this fixture. Keeping them out would be wholly satisfying for the Celtic supporters. Bain is the man who will likely be tasked to do it. If he produces big, it’ll increase both his own morale and the confidence fans have in him.

3. Leigh Griffiths

Leigh Griffiths knows the pressure is on / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Talk about a player who needs a pick-me-up.

Griffiths is entering the final year of his contract this summer. Similar to Odsonne Edouard, Kristoffer Ajer, and Ryan Christie. Yet there’s a reason Griff isn’t mentioned in the same conversations as those three regarding their potential summer departures.

The truth is the Scotland international hasn’t performed for Celtic in a long time. This season alone, the striker only has six goals in 19 games [Transfermarkt]. Last season, he bagged 12 goals in 33 matches. You have to go back to the 2015/16 season, his 40-goal campaign under Ronny Deila, for the last time Griffiths bagged over 20 successful efforts in a full campaign.

Yes, he’s had his off-field troubles in that time. They’ve played a huge part and we can’t forget that. But since signing his new contract back in September 2018, Celtic haven’t gotten any value from Griff. As we home in on his final year, he hasn’t come anywhere near earning a new deal.

It’s been nearly two months since Griffiths has had a full half of football to his name. That means he’ll likely only be used as a last resort on Sunday if John Kennedy needs him.

But similar to Ajeti, a derby goal will have supporters falling in love with his ability again. It will have many discussing the impact he can make next season under a new manager. That’s just what this fixture does for players who perform in it. Look at how it shot Moussa Dembele and Odsonne Edouard to stardom.

Here’s hoping Griff can get some minutes and show what he’s worth. His Celtic career needs him to shine in this fixture again.

In other news, Brendan Rodgers has given his managerial verdict on John Kennedy.