Karamoko Dembele’s debut was just as memorable for supporters as it was for him.
The Hoops wonderkid put in a simply stunning solo display at Celtic Park against Craig Levein’s Jambos. Neil Lennon gave Dembele a 45-minute second-half display against the Gorgie side on trophy day back in May.
How he didn’t open his goalscoring account for the club is anyone’s guess. He had highly-praised Hearts kid Aaron Hickey on toast, constantly weaving past him with his quick feet and forcing Zdenek Zlamal into a couple of stops too. It was such an exciting performance for a 16-year-old.
Dembele spoke to Celtic TV last night about that debut too. And, speaking to Celtic TV’s Gerry McCulloch, Dembele said he struggled to wipe the smile off his face when he came on.
“Yeah, it was unbelievable (the debut), because I wasn’t really expecting it. When I was coming on and everyone was screaming my name – it was crazy! It was quite hard not to smile, but it was really nice.
“As soon as I got onto the pitch, I just never wanted the game to finish. It was just that good a feeling. I’m just looking forward to this season and hopefully getting another chance.
“It was something to look forward to (debut). Obviously there had been a lot of build-up, then finally getting to do it, it was just like a relief in a way.”
Dembele’s debut was enough to convince many
Exciting. That’s the word that just perfectly sums up Dembele’s debut.
One of the biggest concerns for a player so young and still developing would’ve been how he handled rough challenges from senior players. Hearts certainly tried to lay a few on him. Hickey in particular tried to leave his mark, whilst Dembele also had to try and weave past centre-backs such as Aaron Hughes and Conor Shaughnessy.
But Dembele proved he can cope with one of the most physically strong teams in Scotland. Therefore, he’s proven he can cope with playing against the majority of sides up here if not all.
Neil Lennon should have no problem throwing the youngster back in if necessary. For his physical development, another year with the reserves he only joined back in February could be for the best. But there should most definitely be a handful of first-team appearances in there too.
Making sure Dembele doesn’t get too much too soon must also be on Lennon’s mind, however. It’s so important to keep a young gem like the winger rooted with his feet on the ground. Celtic and Lennon will know that, and will deal with his situation accordingly.
Dembele, however, is making all of the right noises. He’s already featured in Youth Cup and Glasgow Cup finals respectively. He’s doing incredibly well for a 16-year-old prodigy with plenty to learn.
Most importantly, Dembele appears to be willing to wait for his chance too. That makes all the difference, and no doubt Celtic fans will be excited to see more of the youngster when Lennon sees fit.