Jonathan Afolabi's Dundee spell is huge; he must back-up Celtic manager's initial praise
As Jonathan Afolabi sealed his one-year loan move to Dundee yesterday, there’s a feeling around the Celtic support of satisfaction.
Many of us will acknowledge that this is exactly what the young Irishman was in desperate need of after seeing his loan stint with Dunfermline cut short last season due to the pandemic.
Looking at the current Parkhead pecking order, Afolabi sits behind Odsonne Edouard, Albian Ajeti, Patryk Klimala, and Leigh Griffiths respectively. He also likely sits behind the likes of Ryan Christie and Moi Elyounoussi too, who Neil Lennon has in the past turned to during previous striker issues.
Yup, it was time to go. But make no mistake, this isn’t a case of “you might as well”. Celtic fans and Lennon will be keeping a keen eye on how Afolabi progresses at Dens Park.
Back when he first signed for the club from Southampton in the summer of 2019, Afolabi was described as being close to first-team level. Lennon told Sky Sports: “He’s one that’s a development [player]. I think he’s on the cusp [of the first team] so he will come in and train with us. You feel he’s raw but has good potential.”
A big goal return is the target here
Impressing Lennon is one thing, but Afolabi must also do himself a favour and ensure he catches the eye of the Celtic support. The only way to do that as a front-man is by scoring goals, goals, and more goals.
When it comes to pre-season next season, he must have it as a primary goal that he has supporters demanding he gets a shot. A chance to be given that first-team berth that Lennon believed he was close to in the summer of 2019.
It’s not out of the question to think that an impressive end to the campaign for Dunfermline last season and he would’ve been spoken about more this summer. Instead, he only managed two goals and one assist in six games before the pandemic struck. As such, nobody was crying out for Afolabi in pre-season, as harsh as that may sound.
But the fact that Afolabi isn’t anywhere near the Celtic first-team despite the issues we’ve had up top during the early stages of the season, it shows just how important this move is for him.
By the time next season kicks off, Afolabi will be 21. At that age, and two years into his time in Glasgow, he’ll want to start making a serious impact for the A squad.
If things don’t work out at Dens Park then it could be another year trying to prove himself elsewhere come the 2021/22 campaign. That’s not where Afolabi will want to be or where we all thought he would be after Lennon’s initial comments on him.
So the time has come for the Ireland under-21 international to start showing what he’s all about. If he does, the rewards are potentially great for him next season.