Airdrieonians boss says Celtic youngster dug them "out of a hole" after just 1 game

By David Walton

February 21, 2022

Airdrieonians manager Ian Murray has already been left delighted with Celtic youngster Jonathan Afolabi after just 1 appearance for the club.

Afolabi is with the League One side on a temporary deal until the end of the campaign. It follows a fruitless period in the first half of the season with Ayr United in the Championship.

Afolabi is looking for a fresh start as he struggles to make an impression away from Parkhead. However, he started on a real positive note on Saturday by netting a debut goal in a 1-0 success at Peterhead. It was a strike that ensured the League One side remained just 5 points behind Cove Rangers at the top of the table.

Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

And it appears as though Murray was left extremely impressed with Jonathan’s all-round debut performance at the weekend. As quoted by the Daily Record, he said: “Jonathan did well in his first start for us. It was his first for a while, but it was a lovely finish from the big man.

“He is going to take time to adapt to our style of play and our system, but he’s definitely a handful and his finish in the box was so composed. I’m delighted for him and I’m delighted for the team that we’ve brought someone in who is helping us and digging us out of a hole at a very important stage of the season.

“Performances go out the window in these games, you’ve got to win the match, and it was a very difficult playing surface for us today. We are still undefeated in 2022 and that’s 10 games in a row. It’s a very valuable three points at a very hard place to come.”

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Jonathan Afolabi in desperate need of a successful spell away from Celtic Park

There’s no dressing up the fact that it’s been a frustrating last 2 years for Afolabi at Parkhead. He’s now had 3 loan spells in the Championship and has only managed 7 goals combined in all of them. Not exactly what Celtic were looking for when they shifted him out to Dunfermline, Dundee, and Ayr respectively [Transfermarkt].

The player’s contract in Glasgow is still running until the summer of 2023 [Transfermarkt]. So in that sense, there’s no major concerns for him regarding his long term future just yet. But at 22 years of age, it’s time for the Irishman to start showing the potential that many thought he had at the Euro U19 Championships back in 2017.

There’s no hiding the fact the League One wasn’t part of the progression path Celtic had for him. Neil Lennon stated when he signed that the player was “on the cusp” of first-team action [Sky Sports]. To have not made a single appearance for the first-team 2 years later is disappointing, to say the least.

Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Afolabi stated he was itching to move to Airdrie because he believed it was a better opportunity than playing reserve-team football. He’s right. But that only applies if he can get himself into the starting XI on a regular basis and makes a continuous impact.

His Celtic career hasn’t been on the trajectory we all would’ve hoped back when he signed. Whilst one successful loan spell at Airdrie will hardly have him in the first-team plans this summer, it’ll finally put him on a more promising path.

There’s plenty of time for the Irishman to carve out a successful playing career at a good level. And for the first time he’s started his loan spell with a debut goal too. Hopefully a sign of things to come.

In other news, Rival supporters left in a state of total denial as Celtic edge further ahead in title race