3 simple ways John Kennedy can win over some of his Celtic critics

By David Walton

March 31, 2021

John Kennedy hasn’t had an easy ride of it in his first few weeks as Celtic interim manager.

He’s undoubtedly suffered for being part of the Neil Lennon regime, and rightly so. That was a catastrophic period in the club that led to 10 years of hard work going down the drain. Kennedy has to hold some accountability for that.

However, he hasn’t helped himself since taking on the gig either. At first it looked slightly more promising. The Celtic players looked happier in training and Kennedy even impressed fans with his first interview in charge. A win in his first game vs Aberdeen was a positive step for him also.

But failure to win at Tannadice and hand Rangers the title wasn’t on. Neither was drawing 1-1 with them at Celtic Park when the onus was really on us to secure the three points. It’s left many supporters itching for a managerial change immediately. Here, we take a look at three changes Kennedy can make to help what’s becoming a bit of a battered reputation amongst some fans and critics:

1. Better usage of substitutions

Celtic interim manager John Kennedy (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

There is so much to complain about when it comes to Kennedy’s use of substitutions. In all three games he’s made blunders that have upset the support and haven’t helped performances either.

His first issue was that he wasn’t making enough of them. Against Aberdeen in his debut match, he only made two subs as the performance waned. David Turnbull came off in the 65th minute whilst Patryk Klimala was hooked in the 78th. We ended the game with three possible subs we could’ve made.

He improved on that against Dundee United and Rangers, but a new problem arose. Now they were simply coming too late. At Tannadice when the title was on the line, he made his first change after 65 minutes. His second? Again on 78 with a third coming six minutes.

The Rangers game was simply ridiculous. When it was clear fresh legs were needed, Kennedy waited far too long. The first sub came with 12 minutes remaining. Leigh Griffiths and Ismaila Soro got two minutes each. Tom Rogic got five.

That’s not to mention that our most creative player – Turnbull – has been the first player subbed in all three of Kennedy’s games in charge. It’s time for Kennedy to start getting wiser with his in-game tweaks.

2. Play players in their right positions

Celtic winger James Forrest / (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

One of the major criticisms of Kennedy after the Rangers game was the fact that a couple of players weren’t playing in their ideal positions.

First off, and not for the first time, Moi Elyounoussi started as a makeshift striker. Granted, against Rangers it actually worked. He had a good game and combined well with Odsonne Edouard. But we know he isn’t suited to the position more often than not. That was proven under Neil Lennon yet Kennedy hasn’t changed things.

Moi also started up top with Edouard against Dundee Utd too. We can understand the urge to get Elyounoussi in the team, but he’s a left-winger and a left-winger alone.

The same goes for when James Forrest came on for the final 12 minutes vs Rangers. For some wild reason, Kennedy didn’t put him on his more natural right-sided position. Instead, Forrest was more or less operating in the number 10 role with Ryan Christie, an actual number 10, staying wide on the right.

Things like this don’t help. Against Falkirk, we need to see better common sense than this.

3. More opportunities for youngsters

Adam Montgomery, Cameron Harper and Luca Connell during a Celtic training session at Lennoxtown / (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Kennedy came through the ranks at Celtic from the development squad and also coached the youngsters during his rise to interim manager. Therefore, if anyone knows the importance of giving young players a chance, it’s him.

Instead, Kennedy hasn’t played any of the Lennoxtown graduates who would’ve been hoping for an opportunity. Stephen Welsh, of course, was already a regular in the team before John took charge.

In recent training videos, the likes of Adam Montgomery could be seen with the first team. Ewan Henderson, Armstrong Oko-Flex, and Karamoko Dembele have all been joining him. However, there haven’t been any opportunities as of yet for any of them.

That’s not overly-surprising. The title was still on the line and Kennedy will have wanted to strengthen his case for the job on a permanent basis. Had he played youth vs Dundee Utd or Rangers and failed to win, he would’ve gotten severe stick.

But now would be an ideal time to give them an opportunity. It would give the fans something to be excited about as the season trickles out without much to get our teeth into.

The loan moves for Luca Connell, Ryan Mullen, Ewan Otoo, and Henderson, however, perhaps suggest this won’t be the case.

In other news, a 2020 Celtic target is reportedly a man in demand once again.