Olivier Ntcham's Celtic appearance bodes well for him
Olivier Ntcham’s appearance against Nomme Kalju tonight was perhaps more of the surprising happenings of the contest.
Celtic mauled the Estonians 5-0 at Celtic Park to all but ensure qualification to the third qualifying round. It was a colossal win, and with the Hoops cruising at 3-0 going into the break, there was always going to be the chance that Lennon experimented a tad.
He did that to an extent when he continued to play Lewis Morgan down the right. But, it was the introduction of Ntcham late on in the contest that will have surprised many.
We’ve just come out of the end of the big saga involving the Frenchman. Lennon stated at a presser last week that everything had been ironed out between him and his midfielder (Daily Record). Ntcham’s comments in L’Equipe are still frustrating for supporters, and he still hasn’t apologised.
But tonight was a big boost for the Frenchman if he was initially fearing that he was going to be left out at Parkhead. Lennon’s sub tonight didn’t have to be Ntcham after all.
Celtic had the likes of Scott Sinclair, Jonny Hayes, and Christopher Jullien available to bring on. Lennon could’ve easily justified bringing any of the trio on over Ntcham.
Ntcham’s appearance could easily have been avoided
You could flip it and say that bringing on the Frenchman was a necessity as he slotted into the midfield nicely and allowed Ryan Christie to have a break and get his standing ovation.
But the manager didn’t have to do it. In fact, he didn’t have to name Ntcham in his squad at all. The fact he brought him on in such a high-profile clash shows good intentions from the manager towards the midfielder.
It was almost like an olive branch for him. Ntcham came on and did well enough, even if the game was well over by the time he did. There wasn’t any sulking, and he did look keen to make some form of impression.
Tonight proves that he’ll get chances in the future. Lennon clearly wasn’t bluffing when he said he was happy to consider Ntcham for selection from now on. That certainly appears to be the case, and the former Manchester City man has clearly been given a surprising reprieve.
He now has to start paying back Lennon and the supporters for his comments several weeks ago. If he isn’t going to apologise to the supporters verbally, then good performances can tend to do the trick as a replacement.
It would be nice if this was the start of the healing process between Ntcham and Celtic. And the fact he’s actually getting minutes on the pitch again proves that he maybe does have a future here after all.