Shane Duffy Celtic snub highlights wider Parkhead problem

By Euan Davidson

April 22, 2021

The Republic of Ireland captain, Shane Duffy, didn’t make the Celtic squad last night.

We’ve talked before about Duffy’s diminishing fortunes. Despite historic aerial duel percentages, the tall Irishman and Brighton loanee has struggled for club and country. Issues outside football notwithstanding, the fact that an expensive loan signing couldn’t make it into a comparatively shallow Celtic squad last night tells its own story.

Instead of a recognised centre-back, John Kennedy opted for Nir Bitton to play in defence last night. It didn’t go to plan, with Celtic once again conceding from a set piece. Despite continual evidence that the Israeli is not a natural centre-half, he’s getting picked over a guy valued at over £6m [Transfermarkt].

Now, that’s not good. Youngsters, namely Dane Murray, were picked over the Irishman. In the event that either Welsh or Bitton picked up a knock, a 17-year-old would’ve played ahead of a 41-cap international. Yes, it’s always great to see Academy talents named in the squad. But how on earth did it come to this?

It started so well… / (Photo by Paul Campbell/Getty Images)

Transfer business was our undoing this season, as harsh as that is on Shane Duffy

When we can perform a full post-mortem on the disastrous 20-21 campaign, transfer business will be at the forefront of most Celtic minds. Last night, we discussed Albian Ajeti and Vasilis Barkas not making the side either. Combined with Duffy, that’s approximately £15m worth of ‘talent’ unused by interim boss John Kennedy.

But it’s not like you can blame Kennedy for that. These players aren’t good enough. Or, perhaps, the coaching and interpersonal communication with our new players has been lacking. If you sign a raft of players and only one (David Turnbull) really stands out, that points to something broken at a club.

It’s not always been this way, of course. How often have we seen new players instantly make an impact at Celtic Park? Last season, the additions of Christopher Jullien, Mohamed Elyounoussi and Fraser Forster made us harder to beat, and more of a threat going forward.

No matter how you look at it, these players could and should’ve been much better. Shane Duffy started brightly, but somehow, after a career spent playing at a very decent standard, he forgot how to read passes. His confidence was shot, just like Vasilis Barkas and Albian Ajeti. It’s not that these players suddenly became useless overnight.

By anyone’s reckoning, the three were smart signings. So you can’t necessarily blame them as individuals for what’s gone wrong this season. Somehow, Celtic made an absolute mess of integrating them into life at the club, and that’s a new problem. It’s not something we see terribly often.

You can blame Covid-19, but other players have moved clubs and shone, fans or no fans. We have to know why that wasn’t the case under Neil Lennon in 20-21. By the time John Kennedy stepped into Lennon’s place, these players, not least Duffy, looked way off ever featuring meaningfully for Celtic again.

That’s a failing of the club. These guys will have a mark against them for the rest of their careers after this season. If it was one player who didn’t come in and perform, that’d be an oddity. For almost all of our signings to struggle is a far bigger issue.

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