Celtic hero John Hartson has claimed that teenage sensation Karamoko Dembele is holding his own in first-team training.

The youngster made his Parkhead bow on Sunday against Hearts at Celtic Park. But what made the debut so enthralling was Dembele’s performance.

Coming on at half-time against the Jambos, he ran their defence ragged. Dembele forced Zdenek Zlamal into several instinctive saves, and on another day could’ve had a debut goal or two. It was a real impactful debut performance from the young gun.


Karamoko Dembele proved too much for Hearts (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

But whether he could do it on a consistent basis is the big question. And Hartson provided some positive news in that regard. Speaking in the Evening Times, the big Welshman stated that Dembele isn’t letting himself down in training with the first-team.

“I’ll be interested to see whether Dembele goes with the first-team during pre-season. He has been training with them and I’m told holding his own against seasoned pros.

“I can see him playing more first-team games next season. Lenny didn’t put him on as a gimmick. He deserved to be there.

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“Dembele showed great maturity in his first 45 minutes of senior football. His team-mates were keen to get him on the ball because they know how good he is.”

Not a one off

It doesn’t feel as though Sunday’s performance from Dembele was a one-off. If Hartson’s comments are anything to go by, he’s been impressing in amongst the best players in Scotland.

Dembele seemed to thrive in the Parkhead cauldron yesterday (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

But Celtic are right to keep a lid on things at the minute. The last thing the club needs is to give him too much too soon, as so often that’s had a detrimental effect on youth players’ development. Just look at Islam Feruz.

Dembele appears to have earned everything he has gotten so far. His outing against Hearts proved that. This isn’t just a young talent we’ve got on our hands, it’s a special gem.

Hartson also questioned whether he could be part of the Scottish Cup squad on Sunday. But Neil Lennon told the Scotsman after the Hearts game that it was unlikely to happen. Dembele’s big focus now should be on impressing ahead of pre-season next term.

Dembele has come a long way from the 13-year-old sensation that took us by storm (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

It would be unusual to see a player as young as 16 get more regular game-time at the start of next season. But the old saying about being old enough if good enough applies here.

It’s great to hear Dembele has been doing the business in amongst the seasoned veterans. Hopefully, he gets to go with the first-team on their pre-season camp to Austria and Switzerland this summer. You get the feeling this year’s pre-season is going to be a big period for him.

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