The next steps for Stephen Welsh in promising Celtic career

By Euan Davidson

March 11, 2021

Celtic youngster Stephen Welsh has been a rare bright spot this season.

Thrown in during the defensive crisis at Celtic Park, Welsh has been impressive since the New Year. Most recently, he made the Premiership Team of the Month, and has been heralded for his assured performances at centre-back. With Jullien missing and Shane Duffy struggling immensely this season, it’s been a huge relief that Welsh has come in.

A surprisingly confident centre-back, given his age, Welsh’s numbers stack up nicely. Over 10 League appearances, he’s averaged a WhoScored? rating of 7.10. In that time, he’s made 0.9 tackles per 90, 1.7 interceptions and 3.3 clearances. On the ball, he’s seldom dispossessed. A pass success rate of 85% also makes for excellent reading.

Sky Sports man Anthony Joseph threw Welsh’s name into contention earlier this evening.

Lawrence Shankland welcoming Stephen Welsh to the Scotland squad? / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

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All that said, we should probably temper our rhetoric a bit. Welsh is just 21, and there are options that are probably more deserving. Ryan Porteous, Jack Hendry and Scott McKenna immediately spring to mind.

Welsh’s positioning can be suspect. Next to the more experienced Kristoffer Ajer, most of the young Scotsman’s mistakes have gone unpunished. With less familiar company, Welsh stepping a yard or two out of position will be punished far more readily. Especially against top international opposition.

He’s a raw prospect. Even at 21, he’s not seen a great deal of first-team action. With only a half-season of regular first-team football under his belt, Euro 2020 looks optimistic.

But then, can you improve players without big-game experience? Welsh is already a better player for having competed in Europe, and in Glasgow Derby matches. Those are the acid tests for any promising youngster. Unless you’re exposed to a higher level of football, you won’t be ready for it.

Steve Clarke could take Welsh just for the experience. By no means is Welsh a first-team prospect yet. Not at international level. For all Scotland’s options are limited, there are certainly better choices. Scott McTominay has excelled in a back 3, while Kieran Tierney can also play centre-back when required.

Being in and around that squad can only serve Welsh well, though.

Maybe this tournament has come too soon. But if Welsh can continue to perform at a high level in the Premiership, his time will come.

What do you think? Debate Stephen Welsh’s Scotland chances on the 67 Hail Hail forum.