Exclusive: Jackie McNamara on the Celtic first-team opportunities Soro and Turnbull need

By David Walton

December 8, 2020

Former Celtic captain Jackie McNamara has told 67HailHail that he would like to see more of Ismaila Soro and David Turnbull.

Hoops boss Neil Lennon signed Soro from Bnei Yehuda back in January, but the midfielder has only been given 37 minutes to impress overall (Transfermarkt). Turnbull, meanwhile, came on against St Johnstone for the final half-hour on Sunday, but he’s still only started one game for Celtic all season.

The manager has instead decided to go with the tried and tested Scott Brown, Callum McGregor, and Olivier Ntcham in his starting lineups. That’s left opportunities sparse for Soro and Turnbull – both of whom have impressed in their cameos. Lennon also came out on Celtic TV after the St Johnstone game and admitted Turnbull needed to “be fitter”.

McNamara, however, has called on more opportunities to be dished out to the young duo as they continue to sit on the sidelines.

Speaking exclusively to 67HailHail, Jackie said: “I don’t get how they can’t be fit. I can get it if they’ve not played a lot of games in terms of sharpness – sharpness is different. We’ve been playing two games a week and we have done for a number of weeks. Thursday was a great opportunity to play one or two players to get them games, and this Thursday is as well.

“I’d like to see him (Turnbull). His first game he looked good. His second game not so good in terms of it wasn’t a flowing game (2-0 win at St Johnstone). But when he came on (on Sunday) he put a good ball through to Griffiths – he’s got good vision and sometimes in these games you need someone who has that pass.

“But Soro I’ve not seen much of him. I’d like to see if he can step in when Brown is injured, suspended – whenever. You need to give these guys an opportunity to see if they can handle the pressure. See if they can step in and take the jersey.”

When it’s not working, changes need to be made

McNamara hits the nail on the head.

If Turnbull isn’t fit, major questions should be asked as to why that isn’t the case. However, if it’s match-sharpness Lennon is meaning, then there’s only one way to fix that. And let’s not pretend we don’t have the fixtures for it either.

Celtic have had home matches recently against Ross County and St Johnstone. We had a Europa League dead-rubber in Milan on Thursday and have another this week vs Lille. After that, there are other routine-looking fixtures against Kilmarnock, Ross County, Hamilton, and Dundee United respectively.

You could defend Lennon’s continued selections of the likes of Brown and Ntcham if they’d been performing well. But neither are. It’s not as if taking them out of the team will make things any worse. In fact, Turnbull proved against St Johnstone that he can add a layer of creativity that we don’t currently contain in the midfield.

David Turnbull in action for Celtic against St Johnstone (Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group via Getty Images)

As for Soro, we don’t even know as supporters what kind of player we have there. He hasn’t been used anywhere near enough. You have to imagine what’s going through his mind in particular when we have a midfield so stagnant yet he can barely see a minute of action.

This can’t be what was pitched to him when he signed back in January. “Come on over Ismaila and you can sit on the bench every week regardless of how poor your competition is”. The fact he’s shown some decent touches and impressed supporters in his cameos only adds to the frustration.

As always, all we can do is hope Neil gives the likes of Soro and Turnbull more minutes in the weeks ahead. The excuses not to do so are running out fast.

In other news, 67HailHail writer Euan Davidson has talked up the Belgium coach who would fit Celtic’s criteria.