Celtic aren't producing strikers, and it's hard to know why that is

By Euan Davidson

March 26, 2021

We don’t want to be negative on 67 Hail Hail, but there’s a worrying Celtic trend emerging.

Today, Celtic TV posted an interview with Academy graduate Adam Montgomery. The striker-turned-left-back spoke fondly of Darren O’Dea and Greig Robertson, youth coaches at the club. He’s an exciting talent, and his recent emergence in the first-team squad has been promising. However, his dramatic change of position is bound to raise eyebrows.

He told Celtic TV:

“When [changing position] was first to put me, I was a bit “ahh”. I am a tricky winger normally, I like beating players and getting at people. The way Celtic play full-backs is very attacking so going back to full-back, it hasn’t been a massive difference for me. I’m really enjoying it.”

No harm at all to Montgomery. If his talents are best utilised as a left-back, then he should play there. Scott Brown came through the Hibs set-up as a striker. Players change, their attributes develop, and it’s about using players to their full potential. It’s an incredibly astute observation for Darren O’Dea to have made.

Still, there are worries there. It points to a longer term concern: why aren’t Celtic producing top-class strikers?

Tony WaaaaaAAAAATTTT / (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

It’s not just Celtic: strikers are a national concern

Scotland played Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams during the 2-2 draw with Austria last night. The likes of Kevin Nisbet and Leigh Griffiths wait in the wings, but overall, the country’s men’s sides aren’t blessed with strikers.

For Celtic, it’s a problem that has existed for a considerable time. Jack Aitchison, Celtic’s youngest ever goalscorer [Celtic FC], was rarely given opportunities at the club. Luke Donnelly, now at Arbroath, never made a first-team appearance. Hólmbert Aron Fridjónsson couldn’t break through, and Tony Watt left us in the 14-15 season.

Strictly speaking, the latter two were strikers that Celtic signed. For a long, long time, the club just haven’t been able to produce striking talent. If you know the history, you’ll have some home-grown attacking talents in mind: Jimmy McGrory, Kenny Dalglish, etc.

While it’s churlish to complain about the Academy’s output in its entirety, this is concerning.

Owen Moffat is the latest prospect in the centre-forward position. If he can be developed into a first-team striker, we could save ourselves millions of pounds, and enjoy what is now a novelty.

A football trend? Or a specific problem?

Obviously, there’s no shame in signing players, and I’m not attacking the club here. Far from it. However, it’s deeply concerning that while the club produces excellent defenders, midfielders and goalkeepers, the strikers have lagged far behind. It’s incredibly hard to understand why that is.

Is it just a trend in football? Over the last two decades, we’ve seen front twos become one-up-top. Naturally attacking players have had to add more to their game, often being used out wide in attacking trios. We’ve seen major tournaments with false 9s.

Perhaps kids aren’t dreaming of being strikers like they used to. That seems far-fetched though, given the international popularity of players like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, all of whom score goals for a living.

Maybe, it could just be luck.

It’s bizarre that, for example, Scotland has so many top-class left-backs to choose from. Two, you could argue, that are world class, and both featured in the Celtic Academy.

At the very least, it’s something to think about.

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