The next two weeks will show Celtic whether Jonny Hayes' departure was the right move
Perhaps our most controversial summer decision was not providing Jonny Hayes with a new contract.
Hayes was been one of Neil Lennon’s favourites last season. Not in a bad way either. The Irishman showed a real competency in everything he was asked to do for the Hoops.
Lennon would call on Hayes on 26 occasions throughout the campaign (Transfermarkt). The winger would produce fine displays against the likes of Rangers, Lazio, and Copenhagen just to name a few. He was hardly sitting in the Parkhead wilderness.
Naturally, Hayes’ release from the club and subsequent decision to sign for Aberdeen then didn’t go down well with everyone. Such was his reliability, some will have felt that there was a place for him here.
Instead, Lennon has stuck with Greg Taylor before bringing in Diego Laxalt on loan from AC Milan to add some competition down the left. The latter has to now be considered Hayes’ direct replacement. And considering our upcoming fixtures, we’re about to find out whether we made the right decision.
Over the next two weeks, Celtic will take on Aberdeen on two separate occasions. First off, the two sides meet at Pittodrie next Sunday in the Premiership before they play in their re-arranged Scottish Cup semi-final on Halloween.
Can Laxalt be the player we need to replace Hayes?
Hayes is almost certain to start both of them. So far this season, he’s played every single minute possible for the Dons. He’s the first name on their team-sheet these days, and it will be down to Jeremie Frimpong to stop him making an impact in either match.
Meanwhile, Laxalt should be getting himself close to full fitness. He managed a full pre-season under his belt over the course of August and has been a regular part of AC Milan matchday squads this season. He’s likely to face his employers before the games against Aberdeen which also sandwich a trip to Lille.
What that means is that we should start seeing what Laxalt is all about in the next couple of games after being thrown into the deep end against Rangers.
The games against Derek McInnes’ Aberdeen will be a terrific chance to analyse what we have down the left compared to what we let go.
Sure, it may sound ridiculous. After all, how can you compare someone who has been at a World Cup and plays for AC Milan to an Aberdeen winger. Well, you can. Especially when you consider how settled Hayes was here and how successful a player he proved to be for us. Laxalt has to show us he can offer more than what we decided to move on in the summer.
All the while we’ll get to see exactly what Hayes is producing on a weekly basis when he comes up against the Champions. It’s going to be an intriguing few weeks – here’s hoping we’re not regretting anything come the end of it.