English Premier League and Brighton starlet Aaron Connolly has bigged up international team-mate Shane Duffy after his dismal start to life in Scotland.
Duffy was signed by Celtic on a season-long loan deal in the summer with an idea that he would be the no-nonsense defender who finally stopped the Hoops from being bullied by physical centre-forwards.
However, the Ireland captain has instead been positionally poor, weak at times in the air, sloppy in possession, and too slow with his reactions. It’s been a nightmare start to his loan spell, with big question marks over whether he should keep his place in the team.
Neil Lennon dropped him for the first time on Sunday when Celtic ran out 4-1 winners at Fir Park against Motherwell, but Connolly is adamant that Duffy will come good.
Speaking to The42 ahead of Ireland’s November internationals, Connolly said: “He’s a brilliant centre-half and he has shown that for many, many years so a couple of games is not going to change what everyone thinks of him.
“He’s shown for Ireland how good he is and he’s shown for Brighton how good he was, and how highly rated he was. Two games, from what I have seen anyway (in which he’s been poor), no, I know how good he is and I’m sure he will show that.”
It’s been more than two games, Aaron
If only it had been two games then we would all be agreeing that his criticism has been blown massively out of proportion. But the truth is the errors have been flowing all throughout the last month.
Rangers, AC Milan, Aberdeen, Lille, Sparta Prague. These are all fixtures in which a Duffy mistake has led directly to a goal for the opposition, and it must be said that most of these mistakes are basic.
Neil Lennon appears to have taken him out of the firing line to help get his head into gear. It’s been well documented just how difficult a year 2020 has been for the Irishman, and you can’t just ignore what he’s gone through in his personal life. The pressure really is on for him at Parkhead.
But it does feel as though we’ve hit the reset button several times already. We were willing to forgive the shocking display against Rangers. We were also happy to look past his mistakes against Milan and Aberdeen too. However, the errors still continued, and it’s now something that Duffy himself has to sort out.
For Celtic, this is only part of a wider problem. Nir Bitton came back into his now usual centre-back position on Sunday and was beaten on a host of occasions in the air. It’s where Motherwell got their joy, as Lennon struggles to find a centre-back partnership that he can rely on.
If Connolly’s words about Duffy are true, then we should surely be expecting a renaissance in the coming weeks. Even so, it’s extremely difficult to look past the last month or so. Duffy needs to start producing quickly.