Celtic must make careful decisions on these Lennoxtown youngsters

By David Walton

August 4, 2020

There are three forgotten names who have barely been given a mention after their loan periods came to a disappointing end last season.

These players are Jonathan Afolabi, Lee O’Connor, and Jack Aitchison respectively. All three Lennoxtown youngsters had something big to fight for before the global health pandemic shut football down in the United Kingdom.

Afolabi and O’Connor were both in the Championship with Dunfermline Athletic and Partick Thistle respectively. The former was playing nearly 90 minutes on a weekly basis, with his side just four points behind the playoff positions. O’Connor, meanwhile, was helpless as his Thistle side were relegated despite having a game in hand that could’ve seen them escape.

Celtic full-back Lee O’Connor (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Aitchison was in a right good tussle with Forest Green Rovers in England’s League Two. He made 32 appearances and bagged seven goals down south (Transfermarkt). His side were nine points behind the playoff positions when football stopped, but they also had a game in hand to potentially narrow it down to six.

It was all to play for, but the health pandemic meant their loans were cut short. Disappointingly, not one of the three youngsters got to fight for their carrots.

Their futures now remain up in the air. Not one of them made it onto the park during Celtic’s pre-season matches either. Nice, Lyon, PSG, Ross County, and Hibernian all faced the Hoops before the competitive action started at the weekend. The young trio were nowhere to be seen.

A key stage in their careers

We’ve now reached a key point in their careers. All three of them are now 20 years of age. So whilst there remains time for them to get their opportunity at Parkhead, they also need to be playing regularly to develop at that age.

They should also be starving for success as well as game-time. The trio all experienced regular game-time during their loan spells to differing degrees. It’s time they went out and experienced further pressure this season.

That is of course unless Neil Lennon has a plan to involve any in the first team this season. However, to say that looks doubtful would be an understatement. Celtic are in the market for another striker (Daily Mail), meaning Afolabi and Aitchison would be way down the pecking order behind Odsonne Edouard, Patryk Klimala, Leigh Griffiths, and whoever that fourth striker is.

Celtic youngster Jack Aitchison (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

As for O’Connor, he may have a slightly better chance given the lesser number of competitors in his position. Yet he’s still behind Jeremie Frimpong and Hatem Elhamed as things stand. Even the small number of appearances he may get this season if he’s lucky wouldn’t be nearly as beneficial as a productive loan move.

Celtic have already managed to complete temporary departures for youngsters Ross Doohan and Andrew Gutman, whilst the likes of Ewan Henderson and Luca Connell impressed in pre-season outings respectively. But Afolabi, Aitchison, and O’Connor’s futures still need to be clarified.

Whatever decision the Hoops make must be backed by the supporters. But at face value, it looks like temporary moves for all three would be the correct way to go.

In other news, we take a look at why Celtic should keep a hold of their in-demand £2m man.