New manager Ange Postecoglou has excitingly confirmed that he wants to work closely with the Celtic Youth Academy.
Postecoglou has a reputation for getting involved with youth players and giving them an opportunity. At Brisbane Road, he famously got rid of a host of experienced names and rebuilt the club with young talent.
A similar process is unlikely to be the case at Celtic. In order to achieve success at Parkhead, we’ll need our fair share of experienced players in the door and ready to take the title off Rangers at the first attempt.
However, Postecoglou has outlined his own intentions to ensure youth gets an opportunity if they’re good enough. Speaking via Celtic TV on youth integration, the new man said the following:
“I’m a big believer that if you can produce homegrown talent and players who have come through the club, for the player himself it has extra meaning to representing that football club. And I think even to the supporters because they see one of their own out there and I think that’s very important.
“The first step with that is to make sure that the talent is being produced and nurtured at the club. I want to get really involved with the academy process as well and see where they’re at. They’ve produced some fantastic footballers in recent times and my job is to give those footballers an opportunity and make them realise their potential.
“For me age is irrelevant. It’s about players who are really ambitious and, as I said, they want to produce something special. Our careers all end at one stage, but I’ve always felt if you can produce something that lasts well beyond your career, it makes everything you’ve done worthwhile.”
Celtic Youth Academy full of talent that needs an opportunity
There is a truckload of talent that has been badly underutilised in the Celtic Youth Academy. The supporters managed to catch a glimpse of the likes of Karamoko Dembele and Adam Montgomery in the closing stages of the season. However, despite the final game of the season being a meaningless one, neither started.
Too often has academy talent failed to make the leap from development squad to the first-team. Celtic have struggled to bridge that gap in recent years. Only Mikey Johnston has come into the first-team squad and make a decent impact over the last five years.
It’s been difficult to understand whether this has been down to a lack of talent or lack of development. Celtic have had the likes of Ewan Henderson, Kerr McInroy, and Armstrong Okoflex all operating in the youth squad for some time without ever taking that next step.
We’ve also made signings such as Luca Connell, Lee O’Connor, and Jonathan Afolabi who started off in the academy but haven’t been given opportunities. Every individual player is different, but there is clearly promise in the youth ranks.
So many just haven’t been given sustained opportunities by the first-team management in recent months. There is no clear pathway into the first-team squad. That’s something Postecoglou will have to try and create.
And his willingness to do so is massive for the young guns at Lennoxtown. Here’s hoping it’s backed up with substantial development and youth integration this year.