Exclusive: Jackie McNamara on the exciting emergence of Jeremie Frimpong and where he can improve in future

By John McGinley

August 4, 2020

Jackie McNamara knows a thing or two about emerging as a young full-back at Celtic and making a name for himself at the club.

Signed by the late, great Tommy Burns on the cusp of his 22nd birthday in 1995, McNamara would go on to make over 300 appearances for the Bhoys and cement himself as one of the integral parts of a talented Celtic side that included Henrik Larsson and Lubo Moravcik, amongst other icons.

Interesting then to get his insight on the flourishing career of Jeremie Frimpong in the right-back position and his progress at Celtic over the last 12 months.

The Dutch youth international continues to make quite an impression and found himself on the scoresheet in Sunday’s 5-1 hammering of Hamilton.

McNamara was one of the lucky few actually inside Celtic Park to watch the match, welcomed by the club on the ‘Pass to Paradise’ broadcast to season ticket holders.

Unsurprisingly, he was excited by Frimpong’s display.

The Celtic TV pundit told 67 Hail Hail in an exclusive interview on Monday: “Frimpong was one of the stand-outs, he was involved quite heavily in the first couple of goals, after taking a few sore ones as well.”

That attacking ambition shown by the teenager is the trait that has marked him out as an increasing favourite of the Celtic support.

However, it does raise a question about being able to find the balance between attack and defence, especially when Celtic make the step up to European competition.

Celtic celebrate Jeremie Frimpong scoring / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Chatting to McNamara, I put to him whether Frimpong needs to improve on that defensive prowess and how he’ll go about it.

“I think he’ll find that through experience,” the former Scotland international said. “If you look at the games he played last year, you’re hoping he’s learning from occasions like the cup final when he got sent off, getting caught on the wrong side.”

“But most of the time in the league, Celtic are all-out attack. When I was taught the position, when the right-back went forward, the left-back tucked in and there was always three defenders. It’s a bit different now with Scott Brown protecting the two centre-halves.

“You saw that with the second goal on Sunday. Frimpong gets it, the ball is across to the left-back [Greg] Taylor who supplies the cross for Frimpong to stick in at the back post. So it’s all-out attack.”

It’s in continental action that McNamara thinks most of the learning will be done on the defensive side of the game.

The former full-back said, “You saw recently in the PSG game, and that’s a high level, the first few minutes Kylian Mbappe comes in between the centre-half and Frimpong and slots it. So he’ll learn from that and from the opposition he plays, where he should be positionally.”

Celtic defender Jeremie Frimpong in action against Copenhagen / (Photo by LISELOTTE SABROE/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)

So far, Frimpong has not been utilised much in UEFA competition having been ineligible for group stage matches last season and it’ll be very intriguing to see what kind of set-up that Neil Lennon goes for on the European scene this term, with the consistent and defensively stable Hatem Abd Elhamed also in the squad.

Will the manager allow Frimpong to be unleashed and attempt to hit teams on the break with that kind of pace on the flanks or will he opt for a more pragmatic defensive base?

That’s a question for further down the line when qualifiers get more difficult and, hopefully, group stage football is in the bag.

I’m delighted to say we’ll be hearing more from McNamara on 67 Hail Hail over the coming weeks and months, on both the website and our YouTube channel, to get a bit of expert insight into the quest for ten-in-a-row.

Elsewhere, 67 Hail Hail writer David Walton has taken a look at the immediate futures of three more youngsters at Lennoxtown who haven’t quite made it into the first-team set-up on a regular basis yet.