Jonny Hayes’ position at Celtic has at times drifted from squad player to first-team regular, but this season it’s certainly leaned towards the former.
So far in this current campaign, Hayes has played 23 of Celtic’s 43 games (Transfermarkt). He’s, therefore, had to watch on as the likes of Greg Taylor and Boli Bolingoli stake their own individual claims to be our first-choice left-back/left wing-back.
Since returning from the winter break, that inconsistency in terms of starts has continued. Hayes has started two of our five games to kick off the second half of the season, but showed his worth with a telling impact against Hamilton from the bench on Sunday – playing a key role in Celtic’s second goal in their 4-1 rout.
But speaking to the Celtic View this week (Volume 55, Issue 28, Page 20), not being a consistent starter certainly doesn’t seem to be bothering him.
“It’s more enjoyable to play regardless of what club you’re at or how you’re doing in the league. As a footballer, it’s more enjoyable to be playing football. The more you play football, the more you enjoy it.
“When the games come thick and fast you have to understand that you might be taken out for a game or two with the squad being rotated. That’s the whole point of having a strong squad here, you have players who can come in or out.
“The mantra that all the coaching staff use here is that everyone needs to be ready. The other players, if they’re not playing in the next game, might be in for the following fixture so, in terms of mentality, it’s important to try and enforce a positive mentality and outlook on training and games.”
Hayes knows his role as left-back fight increases
As a veteran, Hayes might have the biggest argument to be playing over any of the other left wing-backs. He has, after all, made over 250 appearances in the Premiership (Transfermarkt). He’s by far the more experienced out of himself, Bolingoli, and Taylor.
Yet Hayes knows that when both Boli and Taylor came in, his rank was effectively that of a squad player. Neil Lennon was never going to splash out £3million on Bolingoli only for him to sit on the bench, for example (Scottish Sun).
It says a lot about the Irishman that he’s managed to hang in there, however. Despite effectively being the third choice at the start of the season, he’s managed to play over half of our fixtures. That says a lot about the mentality he has.
It’s also vital for our title chances to have good squad harmony. Hayes isn’t one who’s going to start moaning or crying about not being in the side. He never has done, even if he isn’t the key first-team player here that he was at Aberdeen. That’s golden for Lennon.
As for the left-back race as it stands, Taylor seems to be the frontrunner. He’s started three of the five matches since the second half of the campaign began. He struggled against Hamilton on Sunday, but has largely done well since coming in.
With Lennon switching to a 3-5-2, it’s only made the battle more intriguing. Hayes could now be rivaling the likes of Mohamed Elyounoussi and Daniel Arzani too. But one thing’s for certain – he’ll always be up for the battle as he’s proved this season.