Neil Lennon’s departure hasn’t just led to hope of a better future for the Celtic fans, but perhaps also some of the outcasts whose careers had been stagnating.
Lennon’s team selections weren’t always mind-boggling, but there were certain players who barely got a sniff. That was despite the fact that those ahead of them had been largely under-performing.
Whether it be the manager’s insistence on swapping the goalkeepers or refusing to play with out-and-out wingers, he simply didn’t mix things up enough. Too often any changes he did make was to favour his favourites and irked the support.
But here, we take a look at three players who could be about to be given the opportunities under John Kennedy that they were starved of working under Neil:
1. Vasilis Barkas
Kennedy’s main goal this season is to stop the bleeding. Scott Bain has hardly worked in that sense – conceding five goals since coming into the team vs Kilmarnock last month.
Many will point to the fact that Bain is often left exposed by the defence. That’s true, but he hasn’t produced a moment of quality this season to bail his backline out.
It’s been clear for several years now that Bain isn’t cut out for this level. He doesn’t have a track record that suggests he should be starring for Celtic. Barkas, however, certainly does.
It’s easy to forget we’re talking about a man with 61 clean sheets in 111 appearances for AEK Athens. A commanding stopper that only shipped 84 goals for the Greek side in those outings [Transfermarkt]. He also has Champions League, Europa League, and international experience too. This is a big investment from Celtic, and Kennedy may look to reintroduce him.
With Neil Lennon dropping him for seemingly no plausible reason last month, no better than a managerial change then to bring him back into the mix.
2. Mikey Johnston
What on earth is going on with Mikey Johnston this season?
Well, he missed most of the first half of it with knee ligament damage. This occurred after an injury at McDiarmid Park last season. As expected, it ruled him out of action until December.
Lennon initially tried to integrate Johnston into the matchday squad. He’s made six substitute appearances and two starts since that return. However, of those sub appearances, not one was longer than 20 minutes. Mikey also hasn’t been seen in any of our last five matches and hasn’t even made the squad for the previous two.
Much of this has been down to the fact that Lennon has seldom been playing with natural wingers. Ryan Christie has been operating down the right side more often than not, with Jonjoe Kenny playing further back. On the left flank, Greg Taylor has been tasked with being our main driving force.
Kennedy needs to inject some excitement, however. Stamp his own authority on things and play players who can excite the supporters. After all, making us good to watch again is the main goal for any new boss.
Johnston is one of the most raw-talented players we have at the club. His trickery and directness is essentially what bagged him his earlier opportunities last season. Don’t be surprised if he suddenly gets a recall and starts receiving more chances to impress.
3. Patryk Klimala
A player who’s threatened to break into things when given his cameo roles is Patryk Klimala. The Polish striker, signed at a considerable cost of £3.5m in January 2020 [Scottish Sun], has barely been seen this season. Yet, when he has, he’s looked industrious.
Klimala has three goals in 23 appearances this season [Transfermarkt]. Sure, it’s not quite heroic stuff, is it? But the problem is that he’s another who hasn’t had a fair run of games this season. When he did manage a run of opportunities in the first couple of months of the campaign, he netted goals against Hamilton, Ross County, and St Johnstone respectively.
Let’s face it, the rest of the front-line have had their chances. Albian Ajeti has had his run of outings and hasn’t impressed, whilst Leigh Griffiths has had more than enough chances this season.
Klimala is the only one who can really point to a lack of a prolonged run in the team. We won’t pretend that Odsonne Edouard is going to be dropped anytime soon. He’ll remain Celtic’s VIP until the day he leaves.
But the Polish forward has shown himself to be an extremely hard worker with an eye for goal in the past. A managerial change could be exactly what he needs to spark his Celtic career into life.