Celtic vs Motherwell at Celtic Park today isn’t just big in terms of points, or at least for Jonny Hayes.
The Irishman has been going through a bit of a renaissance in recent times. After making his first Europa League appearance on Thursday night at the Mestalla, it came after a fine display at Rugby Park.
Whether you like Hayes as a player or not, there’s no denying his recent form. There’s also no question that he’s in as good a moment in a Celtic jersey than he ever has been.
But today is going to be a massive day for him for several reasons.
Firstly, Kieran Tierney SHOULD be back in the fold this afternoon. Brendan Rodgers has been telling us all week that Motherwell was the fixture Celtic were targeting for Tierney’s return.
Naturally, that means the left-back would take Hayes’ place in the team. Nobody can argue that’s the right decision given that Tierney is Scotland’s best full-back. But it does leave Hayes in a bit of limbo.
If Rodgers wants to keep Hayes in the side, however, then there is another way. The Irishman is a natural left-winger. That’s the position he was so impressive in during his five-year spell at Pittodrie.
Considering Scott Sinclair was dropped for the trip to Valencia, that says a lot about how little influence he’s making on matches. Sinclair is by no means irreplaceable – he hasn’t been for a good two years now.
Hayes over Sinclair is the right choice in the long-term
Therefore, with Hayes in fine form and getting the fans onside, he has to take Sinclair’s place in the team today.
If he doesn’t, then it’s clear Rodgers doesn’t rate him as permanent first-team quality. Despite the fact the manager can use the excuse of fresh legs, Hayes has been bringing more to the party than Sinclair.
If he was to suddenly be dropped, it doesn’t reflect well on his position in the squad. For example, it would be easy to look at Hayes as nothing more than a back-up player.
Some in the Celtic support may agree that’s all he is. But the truth is that Hayes deserves the chance now to show he can be more than that.
The Hoops have a huge week coming up, and Hayes has to be considered a huge part of it. But today we’ll find out plenty.