Reports last night emerged, linking Celtic youngster Cameron Harper to an MLS move.
The Athletic are suggesting that Harper, born in Sacramento, is verging close to a deal with New York Red Bulls in America’s top-tier. From a squad-building point of view, it was disappointing news.
Harper was included in the first-team against Hibs on Monday night. The young winger played up front in unfamiliar role. He was subsequently criticised by media outlets in his homeland, where expectations are sky high.
The timing of last night’s Harper news couldn’t have been much worse for Neil Lennon. Already forced to watch the match from home, he’ll have a tough decision to make. With the squad decimated by self-isolation measures, Harper surely would’ve been an automatic pick for today.
However, with talk of the winger signing a contract elsewhere, it may force Lennon’s hand. Can the Celtic manager afford to give game-time to a supposedly want-away player?
The options are incredibly limited for the Bhoys. There are no recognised first-team strikers available to Celtic, and we might see the likes of Adam Montgomery making his first-team debut.
Jonathan Afolabi remains on loan at Dundee, while Vakoun Issouf Bayo is in France with Toulouse. Until last night, Harper might’ve been expected to lead the line.
The irony, of course, is that reports suggest Harper won’t sign a new contract because of limited first-team opportunities.
Conundrum for Celtic boss Neil Lennon over Cameron Harper
Lennon could offer Harper an olive branch by starting him today. Although he pulled up after 60 minutes against Hibs, he’s probably fit enough to make some kind of impact against Livingston.
Against slower defenders, Harper might be able to find some joy in attacking scenarios. Playing the winger somewhere from the start might show the American that he does indeed have first-team opportunities ahead.
Or, it could serve to put him in the shop window even more, with his contract ending in the summer.
Discovered by Tommy Burns’ son, Harper joined Celtic in 2018 (Celtic FC). The American, a member of the USMNT Under-20s, has pace and trickery abounds, and has been hotly-tipped for a while now.
He may not grab the headlines that Karamoko Dembélé does. Still, his development looks to have been steady at Lennoxtown and the Bhoys would’ve hoped to have the winger at the club for the long-term.
Neil Lennon won’t be happy to have yet another selection headache. Starting Harper may be the gesture needed to keep a promising youngster at the club long-term.