Celtic are bettering their closest rivals in terms of fielding young players.
That’s according to data from the CIES Football Observatory. According to the football data experts, Celtic rank 5th in the Scottish Premiership for U21 appearances. With an average squad age of 25.6 years, the Bhoys are only slightly behind leaders Hamilton Academical, at 24.6.
6.2% of all Celtic’s playing minutes are given to U21s, according to the data. That seems low, but there are contrasting ages within the Hoops first team. The numbers are skewered somewhat by Scott Brown, comfortably the oldest player in the team at 35. Meanwhile, regulars like Stephen Welsh and David Turnbull have only recently turned 21.
The defence in general is a youthful one. Greg Taylor is still only 23, while Kristoffer Ajer is just a year his junior. Jeremie Frimpong made the majority of his 23 appearances this season aged 19 [WhoScored?].
If you’re cynical, you could point out that this is a factor as to why Celtic struggled this season. You could feasibly argue that more experienced campaigners were needed. Or, that the variance in ages between the players made it harder to build a cohesive unit.
We’re erring on the side of optimism, however. When Scott Brown moves on in the summer, the squad will have an even younger average age. That bodes well for the future.
Something to think about for the next Celtic boss
The next Celtic manager may want to add some experience to the ranks, certainly. However, the youth in the side is a plus for a manager with long-term vision.
It’s also good for the coffers. Celtic have emphasised a buy-low-sell-high approach in the transfer market over the last decade. With the likes of Liam Shaw coming in, and the club preparing for bids for the likes of Odsonne Edouard and Kristoffer Ajer, this is arguably evidence of a methodology in action.
What does it mean in material terms, overall? That’s your perspective. Runaway league winners Rangers boast an average age of 28.1 years, the second oldest in the Premiership. Certainly, some more seasoned campaigners have helped Gerrard’s side this season.
There’s an argument that the likes of Craig Gordon and Jonny Hayes might’ve really helped Neil Lennon out this season, with Stephen Welsh, Ismaila Soro and Conor Hazard thrown in at the deep end during 20-21.
In the long-term, the youthfulness of Celtic’s squad is probably a good thing. Whether it’s helped us out this year is entirely up to you, however.