Ireland under-21 boss unhappy with Luca Connell situation at Celtic

By David Walton

May 26, 2021

Republic of Ireland under-21 manager Jim Crawford has voiced his unhappiness with Luca Connell failing to progress at Celtic.

Connell was signed by the Hoops from Bolton Wanderers in the summer of 2019. His signing looked to be a shrewd one at face value. A young Irish talent who had managed to secure English Championship experience at 18 years of age. He seemingly had the world at his feet.

Fast forward almost two years and he’s still failed to make a senior appearance for Celtic. He was farmed out on loan to Queen’s Park back in March where he managed to contribute towards a promotion-winning campaign. The Hoops supporters were even left bemused by his lack of progress after his move to Queen’s became official.

In between, Connell has still been showing up well for Ireland at under-21 level. He was one of the stars of the show in a recent friendly against Wales in March. However, under-21 boss Crawford has had a chat with him about his future and has claimed that he’s wasted two years at Celtic.

“I feel it is two years wasted”

As quoted by the Irish Independent, Crawford said: “I have had a conversation with him already, I told him I was a bit concerned with him coming into the last camp. He hadn’t been playing much, he’d just made his debut for Queens Park on the Saturday and had a fantastic performance against Wales, to show that ability and potential that he has.

“So we sat down and spoke about it, that he does need to be playing first team football week-in week-out as he has the ability. He had a taste when Mick McCarthy brought him in with the senior team and in fairness to him he’s open, he understands. He is looking forward to coming to Spain, he wants to kick on this year at Celtic, he understands that if things don’t, it’s about him having a discussion with the powers that be at Celtic to see where his best option is, to go out on loan or what have you.

“He’s another intelligent fella, he knows where he’s at, he knows he needs to be playing and it’s that two seasons of going off the radar which gave him time to reflect and say no, this is not what I am about, as I feel it is two years wasted.”

Ireland under-21 boss not happy; time to see more of Luca Connell in pre-season please Celtic

Connell shouldn’t be too disheartened by his lack of opportunities at Parkhead. He’s not alone. We have plenty of youngsters who have been tossed to the side in order to accommodate struggling senior players.

The young midfielder got a taste of Celtic action last pre-season. Under Neil Lennon, he particularly shone in a 3-1 friendly win against Hibernian at Parkhead before the campaign begun. He produced a sublime ball over the Hibs defence for Karamoko Dembele to latch onto and score from. Then he wouldn’t be heard again.

Indeed, Connell was just shoved to the side despite clear calls from fans for us to see more of him. The Irishman would soon become forgotten about. All of a sudden it would be two years into his Celtic career with no progress.

Luca Connell on duty for Ireland / (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

There aren’t exactly many midfield spots opening up this season either. Scott Brown may be out the door, but Ismaila Soro looks best placed to take his spot. If Connell is to play a role it would almost certainly be as a bit-part player.

He’s better than that. If the new boss tells him that he doesn’t see him in and around the squad next season, Connell must ask for an immediate move. A loan move back to the English Championship or even to a Scottish Premiership club would do him a power of good.

Connell will undoubtedly take Crawford’s comments as a warning. If he wants to be in and around Stephen Kenny’s senior squad, game-time is essential. It still isn’t clear whether he’ll get that opportunity at Celtic or not.

In other news, Celtic are reportedly keeping tabs on a Spain under-20 international.