As Celtic stars start to get linked with loan deals as January ticks on, the Hoops’ Republic of Ireland trio could all do with temporary spells away.
Eboue Kouassi has already been linked with a move away (Scottish Sun). Vakoun Bayo, meanwhile, has reportedly requested to leave temporarily also (Scottish Sun). They aren’t the only two who should be departing on loans.
In the summer, Celtic went down to England and swooped up some promising Irish talent from English clubs. Lee O’Connor was recruited from Manchester United whilst Luca Connell arrived from Bolton Wanderers. Striker Jonathan Afolabi also signed from Southampton’s academy system.
Since then, all three men have been plying their trade with the development squad. It will have given them a chance to get settled into Glasgow and become accustomed to the club.
Yet, as the January transfer window starts to heat up, Celtic could do all three a favour and start giving them an introduction to senior football. Connell played a handful of games for Bolton before leaving, but both Afolabi and O’Connor have yet to taste it.
Afolabi and O’Connor have already been linked with loan moves too. Irish source Pundit Arena claimed that Afolabi is interesting Birmingham City. O’Connor, meanwhile, has been linked with a move to Oxford United by the Glasgow Times.
All three need sent away to hone their craft
What has been evident in the first half of the season is that none of the trio appear close to first-team action. Not one of them has managed to make a senior squad, but that was also to be expected.
Afolabi already has a total of four strikers ahead of him at the club just now. O’Connor, meanwhile, can see three right-backs in front of him too. Connell’s midfield task doesn’t even bear thinking about at the moment.
But all three are at an age where it would be ideal for them to experience more senior games. Afolabi (20), O’Connor (19), and Connell (18) all have tremendously bright futures here, but proving they can handle regular senior football will do them a power of good.
O’Connor, for example, would learn a lot more at Oxford than he would playing development matches. The same most certainly goes for Afolabi and Birmingham. Connell could easily find a club elsewhere too if Celtic allow it.
These three represent the future of our club. They also only need to look at some of our top stars to see just how beneficial a loan move can be. Kristoffer Ajer, Callum McGregor, Tom Rogic, and Ryan Christie all went away and came back as first-team heroes.
The same can be done for our current crop of youth hopefuls. Afolabi, Connell, and O’Connor are the elite in terms of ability in our academy at the moment. Karamoko Dembele and Armstrong Oko-Flex could also be placed into that bracket. But if they’re to accelerate their development, senior football is the way to go wherever they can get it.