The three Celtic-owned loan stars who could be robbed of promotion hopes

By David Walton

March 23, 2020

All of the focus since the football shutdown has been on how the Premiership will end, but there are three Celtic youngsters who will be worried about what happens to Scotland’s second-tier.

Ross Doohan, Conor Hazard, and Jonathan Afolabi are all currently out on loan with varying Championship clubs. Doohan is in his second season with Ayr United, whilst Hazard is currently at Dens Park with James McPake’s Dundee. Afolabi, meanwhile, signed for Dunfermline in January until the end of the season.

The Championship went into lockdown after Tuesday 10th March’s matches between Inverness-Morton and Partick Thistle-Dunfermline. They’re in the same boat as the Premiership in that the league has been stopped until further notice.

Celtic’s on-loan Jonathan Afolabi (Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Whilst there’s a general consensus that Dundee United, who sit 14 points clear of second, deserve to get promoted, there is absolutely no clarity on what could happen to the playoff spots.

Hazard’s Dundee sit third on 41 points, with Doohan’s Ayr one place behind on 40. They both sit behind second-placed Inverness, which make up all three promotion spots.

All three Celtic starlets are in with a chance

However, Afolabi’s Dunfermline are only three points behind the final playoff spot. That means they still have a massive fighting chance to break into the playoffs with a good end to the season. As things stand, there are still eight rounds of matches still to play too. That’s eight matches with just a one-game swing needed.

But with the current health crisis, there are no guarantees that the playoffs will be played out. 3rd vs 4th would have to play each other home and away, before the winner would take on whoever finishes 2nd in another two-legged tie. The victor of that then faces the side who finish 11th in the Premiership – currently Hamilton – in another two-legged tie.

That leaves six games still to be played after the league campaign comes to an end. With UEFA giving leagues until June 30th to end (Daily Record), that’s next to no time at all.

Conor Hazard, currently on loan at Dundee (David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

SFA Chief Executive Ian Maxwell confirmed to the BBC last week that there was “no chance” of any football being played in April either. Therefore, it could be the case that playoffs are a no-go this year. However, we must stress that hasn’t been suggested as of yet by any official parties.

It could be the case that leagues get declared of course. That would give the playoffs the chance to take place before June 30th. But even then that would take away Dunfermline’s genuine fighting chance of getting a promotion spot. Given they’re only three points behind, Afolabi’s side would surely be furious.

Celtic’s Lee O’Connor is also sitting at the bottom of the Championship with Partick Thistle, where he’s also on loan. However, he would have the safety net of returning to Lennoxtown as opposed to dropping into League One. For those chasing the playoff spots, however, it’ll mean a lot more. Hopefully a fair and sensible solution will be found in the coming weeks.