John Kennedy hits back at international manager who made 'disrespectful' Celtic comments

By John McGinley

April 4, 2021

John Kennedy has hit back strongly against comments made by Norway boss Stale Solbakken regarding the development of defender Kristoffer Ajer last month.

The Norwegian boss is insistent that Ajer has to leave Celtic as soon as possible for the benefit of his career.

He told media in March [Scottish Sun]: “Kristoffer has to change the league now, he must. He does not have enough challenges in everyday life.

“Therefore, I think he has got some habits, which you do not notice until he meets better opposition at international level or Europe.

“In some matches he plays in Scotland, he looks like a senior who plays at junior level. It’s of course because he’s good, and this is not criticism of the Scottish league. But he needs to be challenged more on decision making, speed – everything. If I were him, I would try to get to a higher level.”

However, for Kennedy, the comments were completely over the line, especially when made publicly.

He feels Scottish football and Celtic have been disrespected. Kennedy also feels Celtic should get more credit for taking Ajer to the stage he is at now as a player.

As quoted by The Sunday Post this weekend, the interim boss made it clear what he thought of Solbakken’s outburst, saying: “I thought it was disrespectful to both the league and the club. We are a massive club in our own right, who compete in Europe every season.

“To come out with such a strong statement about what a player must do, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. It’s not his position to say that. If he wanted to have a private conversation with Kris over that, fine. But I certainly don’t think he should be coming out publicly, and telling a player what he should or shouldn’t do.

“Especially when you play at a club like Celtic. Anybody who has been at Celtic will have realised the size of it the minute they stepped through the door. The magnitude of it, the fan base and the expectation.

“We have had a huge part in Kris’s career to date, and how he has developed into the player he is. He has played a massive part in that development himself because he commits himself to it every day.

“Kris being in a different place? No doubt there will be interest in Kris because of his profile, his age and where he is at. But I found the statement and the comments disrespectful towards ourselves.”

John Kennedy has hit back at Norway boss Stale Solbakken / (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

I back Kennedy 100% here. While I can see the thinking of Solbakken, who only wants the best for his international players, I think making these comments publicly was crass.

Scottish football and Celtic in particular can be a fantastic place to develop young players. Ajer arrived at the Bhoys from Start as a teenager and has gradually matured into a brilliant talent.

Is it time for him to move on? Perhaps. Nobody is keeping him in Scotland against his will.

There’s still so much road ahead in his career. Celtic have been brilliant for him and that should be acknowledged first and foremost, especially from a fellow professional.

Elsewhere on 67 Hail Hail, Tom Rogic thrived for Celtic against Falkirk, but consistency is still his main foe.