Celtic face unnecessary headache over international stars

By Euan Davidson

March 20, 2021

Whether you agree or disagree with the Celtic Trust, you can’t argue they create debate.

Most recently, the Trust supported the club’s message about staying safe. Supporters have been discouraged from meeting outside Celtic Park ahead of the Derby, and it makes sense. Whataboutery and finger-pointing to one side, supporters shouldn’t be meeting in numbers.

It’s just the reality of the current climate. Until we can send Covid packing, that’s how things are. It’d be utterly daft to prolong the suffering. Or, to give authorities a stick to beat Celtic with.

In sending that message though, the Celtic Trust argued that the club shouldn’t let its international players leave the club’s “bubble” [Celtic Trust]. Being honest here, I hadn’t really thought about that.

It’s a great point, though. Celtic haven’t had a positive Covid case in a substantial length of time, now. To risk that is playing with fire.

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We’re seeing it across Europe. Most recently, Bayern Munich stopped stars Robert Lewandowski and David Alaba from travelling to the UK [Sky Sports]. It’s to do with “mutation zones”, which is less Ninja Turtles and more “deadly strains of Covid”.

Given the Coronavirus nightmares Celtic have had this season, should the club follow suit?

Celtic star Ryan Christie in action for Scotland / (Photo by Nikola Krstic/SNS Group via Getty Images)

International break seems like a giant hassle for Celtic

We’re looking at Shane Duffy, Conor Hazard, Moi Elyounoussi, Kristoffer Ajer, Odsonne Edouard and more leaving the club temporarily. Conor McGregor, Ryan Christie and Greg Taylor were all selected for Scotland. All but Edouard will be playing full internationals, while Edouard is involved with the U21 Euros, which begin next week.

It’s natural that the Celtic squad is full of international players. From their point of view, they’ll want to play these matches, especially those who wish to play in Euro 2020 this summer.

But the onus of responsibility is on Celtic. Certainly, it would make the club unpopular with FAs around the continent. Still, there’s a massive risk in letting players leave the successful surroundings of the club and letting them join international sides who cannot make the same Covid guarantees. Edouard, Christie and others have had to self-isolate after international duty. There’s precedent of it going wrong.

Admittedly, Celtic did travel to Dubai, and that was a gigantic mistake. However, you’d have thought the club would’ve learnt its lesson on that by now.

The players concerned, though, have every right to travel if their FA makes the appropriate precautions. Losing out on caps because of a conservative approach from Celtic might not go down well at all. Kristoffer Ajer, for example, is a future Norway captain, and he’ll be eager to join up with his compatriots.

This is a headache for everyone involved. You have to question the importance of these fixtures, and whether or not they could be kicked down the road. With light at the end of the tunnel, in Scotland at least, taking a gamble on health like this seems needless.

Everyone will have their fingers tightly crossed.

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