Celtic boss Neil Lennon happy to throw Jonny Hayes in vs Lazio

By David Walton

November 4, 2019

With Lazio vs Celtic creeping up on us on Thursday night, one big question needs to be answered.

Left-back Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo came off against Hibernian on Saturday at half-time. The Betfred Cup semi-final was a no-contest in the end, with the Hoops winning 5-2. However, Boli was hooked due to injury rather than his performance level.

Neil Lennon stated post-match that he’s a doubt for Thursday’s trip to Rome (Evening Times). Instead, Celtic have either Jonny Hayes or Greg Taylor available to take the reins should Boli miss out.

Boli is a huge doubt for Thursday night (Michael Campanella/Getty Images)

And speaking in the Scottish Sun, Lenny seemed to big up Hayes for a return to the side as he claimed he would have no concerns about throwing him in.

“I wouldn’t have any concerns (about playing Jonny Hayes against Lazio). We need to see how Boli is, but Jonny has done well.

“We’ve also got Greg Taylor as well, so there are ready-made replacements if needed.

“Do we believe we can win the game? Yeah, but we know how difficult it’s going to be. We also think we can get beaten.”

Starting Hayes would say a lot about Taylor’s position

On paper, you could see Lennon’s point here if he was to start Hayes over Taylor. The latter has only made one appearance for the club, whilst Hayes has Europa League experience under his belt.

Will Jonny Hayes be the man Neil Lennon goes for this Thursday? (Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

And there’s no denying that the manager loves Hayes too. He’s always the first sub that the manager makes, or at least it feels that way. Hayes is the most used sub this season, but that won’t surprise anyone who’s watched all of our games this term.

Taylor needs some faith put into him

The problem is that it doesn’t look great for Taylor if that’s the case. It would say a lot about his current position at the club. For supporters, it will read as though he isn’t actually second choice. Considering the fee we paid for him, he should, at the very least, be the instant back-up to Boli.

This could all be irrelevant if Bolingoli manages to recover from his complaint. However, if Hayes starts it certainly paints an intriguing picture.

Greg Taylor has barely been seen since arriving from Kilmarnock in the summer (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

As decent a footballer as Hayes is, he shouldn’t be getting game-time ahead of someone like Taylor. Not because Taylor is a much better footballer, but because he’s the one we’re hoping to have at the club for years to come. Hayes is a squad player who can be used if necessary. But Taylor has to be given a vote of confidence from the manager if Boli is out.

It could be the case that Lenny may look to rely on experience in Rome. That would be understandable. But considering Taylor has been at the club for nearly three months, he should be ready for these kinds of challenges. It’ll certainly make for interesting reading when the teamsheet is announced.