3 Celtic youngsters who need time out on loan; potential destinations
Celtic youngsters have used the loan system to their benefit for a long time, now.
It’s often forgotten that Callum McGregor, now vice-captain, spent 2013-14 on loan at Notts County [BBC]. More recently, we’ve seen Conor Hazard at Dundee, Marian Shved and Jack Hendry in Belgium, and Bayo at Toulouse. Each have had differing success away from the club, but it’s still their best opportunity to play first-team football.
Over the last week, Leo Fuhr Hjelde, Celtic’s promising young Norwegian defender, joined Ross County. Under the tutelage of John Hughes, Hjelde will be tasked with helping the Staggies to stay in the league for next season. He was immediately handed a first-team start against Rangers.
So, it follows that other Celtic youngsters could kick-start their own development away from the club. Here are three players who would benefit from a late January window move.
Still to make his league debut for Celtic, Luca Connell joined from Bolton Wanderers in 2019. The young Irishman was impressive in England, making 10 Championship appearances [Transfermarkt]. Comfortable playing in a range of positions across the midfield, the 19-year-old has dynamite potential.
With good technique and a smart range of passing, Connell has impressed at youth level for Celtic. He was involved with the Colt side this season, alongside the likes of Cameron Harper and Owen Moffat.
A return to England might suit Connell’s development best. While there’s much to be said about utilising the physicality of the Scottish league system, a higher standard might force Connell to progress. Clearly an exciting attacking talent, the competition in midfield for Celtic is ruthless.
Truth be told, he’s incredibly unlikely to feature this season at Celtic Park. A trip down the road to a bottom-half Championship or top-half League One side might suit Connell down to the ground.
A defender who can also play in midfield, Ewan Otoo has not long signed a contract extension at Celtic. Otoo has featured for the Colts and at youth level.
However, without organised youth football or reserve football for the rest of the season, a plan for Otoo’s development must include a loan deal.
Like Jonathan Afolabi at Dundee, Otoo is a more enigmatic figure who doesn’t win many headlines, despite obvious talent. We can see Otoo at somewhere like Alloa Athletic or Queen of the South; a club battling in the Scottish Championship.
Otoo needs to work on his physicality and passing to mark him out as a real option for Celtic. He, like Connell, has plenty of opposition in the first-team. A loan move would undoubtedly help Otoo in the future, and with little to play for at reserve level, the time for a loan is now.
When was the last time a youth striker really broke through at Celtic?
Jack Aitchison is our youngest ever scorer, but he now plays for Barnsley [Celtic FC]. Tony Watt obviously had a big moment for the Hoops, but he was signed rather than fully developed by Celtic. There aren’t many others to speak of.
We’re hoping Owen Moffat breaks that mould for Celtic youngsters. A natural goalscorer who has impressed at youth level, Moffat could really use time away from the club. While he could undoubtedly learn from Edouard, Griffiths and Ajeti, there’s no replacement for experience.
At 19, Moffat really has to make a dent in the next couple of years to have any sort of career with Celtic. Attacking areas tend to find the most investment in the transfer market, but it’d be immensely satisfying to see a local lad putting the ball in the back of the net.
Should League One start again as planned, Moffat would surely score goals at that level. His slight frame needs to bulk up, but he has the natural tools to get goals lower in the SPFL. Who knows; it might set him up for life.