Use him or lose him: Celtic youngster Luca Connell should get his chance

By Euan Davidson

February 2, 2021

When Celtic signed Luca Connell, there was a great deal of interest.

For one thing, this wasn’t another youngster plucked from the obscurity of a youth academy. Connell had 10 Championship appearances for Bolton Wanderers [Transfermarkt], formerly managed by Neil Lennon. An Ireland youth international, no less, Connell was expected to make a leap in his development.

And still, in 2021, you’d be hard-pushed to find many Celtic fans who recognise Luca Connell’s attributes, style of play and what he brings to a side.

Celtic find themselves in a position where we might as well experiment. Neil Lennon has failed to get the best out of some of his big names. Olivier Ntcham has just vacated a spot in the Bhoys’ midfield. Granted, he’s arrived to scenes of absolute chaos, and we may well see his loan spell end before it begins.

Still, Connell’s absence would be more understandable if he hadn’t already made inroads at a decent standard. South of the border, the Irish youth international did enough to get into a struggling side. So why not use him now?

Celtic duo Luca Connell and Jonathan Afolabi / (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

For Celtic, Luca Connell and other youngsters need experience

When Hibs came to town, and Celtic were lacking in numbers, Neil Lennon was forced to use a whole raft of youngsters. Ultimately, it ended in a 1-1 draw, with senior players at fault for conceding late on.

Luca Connell didn’t get an opportunity in that match, with Soro and McGregor available. However, McGregor will need rest, while Scott Brown looks past his best.

Connell’s enthusiasm is certainly there. He told the Irish Mirror in 2020:

“Just before I signed for Celtic the lads in the Ireland squad were telling me how big an opportunity that could be for me.

“I had a few options around then but when I heard Celtic wanted me the decision was easy.

“I feel that, with not playing regularly, I’m in good shape so I’m ready to go whenever I’m given the nod.

“Patience is key. Every game is huge and every game for Celtic is a must win.

“Even if you look on the bench, the talent and ability of the players on the bench is so high. It’s always going to be hard to get in but I hope the chance comes. When that happens it’s up to me to take it.”

Luca Connell, from his time at Bolton Wanderers / (Photo by Andrew Kearns – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Celtic should look to future

With Scott Brown’s career at Celtic winding down, we’ve already seen impressive performances by the likes of Ismaila Soro and David Turnbull in midfield. Tom Rogic’s days at Celtic are surely numbered, while we’ve already mentioned Ntcham.

The Premiership is over, barring an absolutely remarkable collapse in form from Steven Gerrard’s side. If Neil Lennon wants to state his case for staying on, he’s as well using the youthful resources at his disposal. Truth be told, there’s not really anything to gain from a Scott Brown farewell tour at this stage.

The only crumbs of comfort this season have been from seeing the limited opportunities afforded to youngsters in 20-21. Connell is hungry, has match experience and has the right attitude. It’s time to let him flourish.