When it comes to making a Celtic breakthrough, there are plenty in the current squad who can claim they took those tricky steps through the academy.
James Forrest and Callum McGregor are the most recognisable from the first-team. Both men are by far the most successful academy products we have at the club. Ryan Christie, meanwhile, had to impress from the development squad in his early days.
So who could be set to follow them in the current batch of Lennoxtown kids? Here, we take a look at the three Celtic Christmas crackers to look out for in 2020:
Young Scott Robertson is perhaps the freshest in the mind after his impressive debut for the club against Cluj a couple of weeks ago.
In what was a heated environment, the young midfielder showed composure, a solid first-touch, and speed in the turn as he tried to drag Celtic forward when he could. On a night when he was up against a Europa League outfit who needed the win, he didn’t look out of place.
Neil Lennon has also come out and stated that the youngster’s debut was “terrific” and that his performance “delighted” him.
🗣️ Neil Lennon: "Scott Robertson had a terrific debut. Scott’s performance delighted me. I thought it was a superb debut for an 18-year-old to come in and play in that environment so maturely and with a lot of composure.” #CLUCEL #UEL
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) December 12, 2019
Celtic open up the year with a Scottish Cup tie at Partick Thistle, whilst matches against Kilmarnock, Ross County, and St Johnstone will follow. Lennon, given how tight the title-race is, is going to have to show courage to throw a youngster like Robertson is, but his promise is clear.
Supporters will want to see more of him as the season progresses. Even if competition in his position is tough at the moment, it’s difficult to shake how good he looked in Romania.
We were all perhaps given a reality check regarding Karamoko Dembele against Cluj. He came on later on in the second half as fresh legs, but he failed to make an impact.
What was noticeable about Karamoko was that he was easily brushed off the ball. He didn’t get the chance to show his footwork on the day, as Cluj stuck tight to him when he received possession.
Yet he continues to dazzle at youth level, and managed a fine debut appearance against Hearts back in May. He tore Aaron Hickey apart and nearly managed a goal too. It would be a huge surprise if he didn’t add to his two appearances in 2020.
He’s still managed to catch the eye both at international and club level in the youth ranks (Scottish Sun). Considering how long Dembele seems to have been around for, it’s easy to forget he’s only 17. It’s perhaps a tad hasty to put him out on loan just yet.
Another few months with the reserves whilst hopefully getting the odd chance in the first-team would be nice to see. His development is getting serious now, and how he progresses in the next few months will be interesting. He’s most certainly one to watch.
It wasn’t clear when Luca Connell signed just where he was going to be operating. However, upon his arrival, he was down with the development squad as opposed to being a genuine contender for first-team games.
Connell has been training with the first-team regularly in any case, and has experience of being in the international set-up at senior level with Ireland too. A player who was also right in the thick of the Betfred Cup celebrations also proves he’s certainly in and around the squad these days.
Interestingly, however, he hasn’t been given a single shot in a matchday squad this season (Transfermarkt). He may be on the fringes, but even a Betfred Cup spot has eluded him. He also wasn’t part of the makeshift squad in Cluj either when Lennon looked to shake things up.
Yet it’s clear Celtic rate him. The club were reported to have been hugely impressed with his progress since his summer arrival (Football Insider). Considering he also played regularly with Bolton in the second half of last season, he doesn’t have a blank level of experience.
His problem is the same as Robertson’s in a sense. The talent ahead of him is show-stopping. Scott Brown, Callum McGregor, and Olivier Ntcham won’t be giving up their places anytime soon. However, with Connell the most experienced youth midfielder we have, it’ll be interesting to see whether he can put up a challenge for a spot in 2020.