Celtic interim boss John Kennedy needs to treat weekend as Glasgow Derby dress rehearsal

By Euan Davidson

March 4, 2021

Celtic interim boss John Kennedy might be in the mood to experiment.

After all, he went with plenty of familiar faces against Aberdeen. Even then, the build-up play was more patient, and there were obvious tactical tweaks. Getting to the byline, and full-backs whipping in low crosses, for example. Scott Bain was encouraged to play the ball short, and at times operated as a centre-back to push play forward.

There was enough there to suggest some hard work had been done in training. With a full week and a half under his belt by kick-off at Tannadice on Sunday, we really ought to see more of John Kennedy’s own tactical ideas.

That’s important, because there’s a Glasgow Derby coming up. Meeting Mickey Mellon’s Terriers this weekend can and should be treated as a dress rehearsal for meeting Rangers on the 21st of March. If Kennedy has a preferred style and approach in mind, then he’s got very little time to perfect it.

After all, we don’t need reminding of the repercussions if Celtic capitulate against our fierce rivals.

Interim Celtic boss John Kennedy / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Celtic interim boss John Kennedy has huge decisions to make

After we saw both the midfield diamond and a kind of 4-2-3-1 during that Aberdeen match [BBC], it’s hard to predict where Kennedy will go from here.

Certainly, the latter is the set-up he’s more used to. Working under Ronny Deila and Brendan Rodgers, it’s the formation that brought Celtic a great deal of joy in the past. If Kennedy wants to utilise Soro and McGregor together, then it seems the obvious choice.

However, Celtic don’t have a great deal of options on the wings. It’s that reason which suggests that Kennedy might try something different. The interim boss might have tricks up his sleeve.

Furthermore, there are personnel decisions to make right across the pitch. If Scott Bain is getting the nod for the Derby, he’ll play on Sunday. Of that, there’s little doubt, especially with the murky Barkas situation not becoming any clearer. His namesake, Scott Brown, may be relied upon for experience, but Soro was excellent in the last Glasgow Derby, which Celtic really ought to have won [Guardian].

A tense Glasgow Derby awaits after Tannadice / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Best-case scenario for Kennedy

Against Dundee United, we’ve laboured and looked pristine. The best win of recent times was against Mellon’s side, a Hogmanay shellacking [SPFL/YouTube] which bought Neil Lennon some time over the start of 2021.

Obviously, a win is a best-case scenario, but it’s about more than that. If Kennedy can can go some way to repeat the 3-0 win from the end of last year, then it gives Celtic some much-needed momentum. It’s worth remembering that the Bhoys really did have the best of the last Derby, but were undone by a daft moment of defending.

Kennedy needs goals here. He needs to find an attacking combination that works. We know we can defend against Dundee United, even with Lawrence Shankland in improved form. The absolute priority is to get Celtic firing on all cylinders before our next match.

In material terms, it means little. But the boost that beating Rangers would give the Celtic supporters is immeasurable. Therefore, Dundee United at the weekend is by no means a dead rubber, or a meaningless match.

It’s a massive, massive test for John Kennedy.

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