Stephen Welsh deserves further Celtic opportunities this season

By David Walton

February 19, 2020

For those who tuned into yesterday’s closed-doors reserve match, you’ll know that Celtic’s Stephen Welsh captained the side to a fine 4-0 win over Aberdeen.

It was a welcome sight to see Welsh back in the spotlight once again after a stunning Celtic debut at Hamilton earlier this month.

Yet, the last thing Welsh should now be settling for is reserve team football. Whilst it’s always a positive way to keep fitness levels up and ensure that you stay match-fit, Welsh can arguably claim that he’s above playing youth games now.

Celtic youngster Stephen Welsh (Lukasz Sobala/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images)

He’s now 20. Playing senior games at his age should now be his main goal. You also have to take into consideration that he made 15 appearances for Morton in the Championship before being recalled in January (Transfermarkt). Having that taste of first-team football should have whetted the appetite.

His recall was followed up with a Celtic debut against Hamilton Accies in what was a mightily impressive performance from the centre-back. He even looked more assured than Christopher Jullien and Kristoffer Ajer alongside him that day.

Welsh made crucial contribution at Accies

Remember, Welsh showed his awareness and concentration levels to stop Accies going 2-0 ahead in that one too when he raced back to stop David Moyo from slotting past Fraser Forster. That could be a big moment in our season given how that game was going.

But after being placed on the bench against Motherwell several days later before being cup-tied for the trip to Clyde, the opportunities have since dried up. Hamilton remains his only appearance for Celtic, whilst Nir Bitton and Jozo Simunovic have made first-team returns in recent matches.

Welsh didn’t make the bench against Hearts or Aberdeen respectively. But despite the senior status of Simunovic and Bitton, Welsh remains the future. That’s reason enough for us to stick with him and give him further opportunities between now and the end of the season.

Celtic boss Neil Lennon (Paul Ursachi/MB Media/Getty Images)

It’s difficult to predict whether Neil Lennon will play him in the coming weeks. With so many options now returning, the manager is likely to go with the senior pros instead.

But Welsh isn’t 17 or 18. He’s now in his 20s, and he can’t be expected to sit in the reserves for another year or two.

His appearance in the reserves yesterday as captain was nice to see. But his performance at Hamilton is one that merits further opportunities. Where they’re going to come from is anyone’s guess, but Welsh looks too promising to leave in the reserves for the next six months.