Use of loan system has shown Celtic don't necessarily need a Colt team

By Euan Davidson

May 7, 2021

There seems to be an obsession Celtic and Rangers have with establishing colt teams.

On a level, it makes sense. Due to Covid-19, reserve and youth team football has been at an absolute premium. Barring the City of Glasgow Cup [Celtic FC YouTube], there haven’t been too many decent competitive opportunities for the Bhoys youngsters this season.

So, you can understand if Celtic want to have a Colt team, or B Team, in the lower reaches of Scottish football. It’s something that works for the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona. Incredible examples like Lionel Messi and Alvaro Morata have progressed from second sides, before coming into the first team.

There’s a very obvious path for progression there. It’s something Celtic have struggled to establish over recent years; we’re told about very promising young players, who disappear without having made a mark on the first-team. For a club with a history of producing home-grown talent like the Hoops, that’s a frustration.

However, the likes of Barry Coffey, Luca Connell, Ewan Henderson, Jonathan Afolabi and a whole host of others are prospering on loan. They’re getting real, first-team football under their belts at a very decent level. Also, would it not just make sense to be part of a reformed reserve league?

Celtic youngster Jonathan Afolabi is impressing in Dundee / (Photo by Roddy Scott/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Loan system is paying dividends for Celtic

Across the SPFL and further afield, Celtic Academy projects are thriving. The examples of Luca Connell, Barry Coffey and Ewan Henderson would’ve trained with the first team, but after lockdown, it was imperative that they developed on loan. It’s something that’s benefitted the likes of Callum McGregor in the past, after all.

It’s not like SPFL clubs are going to turn their nose up at Celtic Academy players. Quite the opposite, in fact, and it would serve us well to have affiliate clubs further down the Scottish football pyramid. Whether official or unofficial, the idea of a feeder club situation seems like at least a partial solution here.

Failing that, we’ve at least seen players improving before our eyes at a higher standard than Reserve football or the Lowland League, where the rumoured Colt team would end up.

Why can’t Bhoys be part of reform?

Alternatively, a revamped SPFL Reserve League could suit. The dual benefits would be that players outside the first-team would get game time at a decent standard, while we wouldn’t risk alienating an entire section of Scottish football. There’s already pretty vociferous objection to any plans involving a Colt team, and we could do without the stress for just one season of Colts in the SLFL.

Yes, league reconstruction is a tedious debate. Especially when it’s lower stakes, like this. However, there seems no real reason as to why Celtic aren’t in the SPFL Reserve League. Surely, Reserve football is the perfect halfway house here, but it doesn’t seem like us, nor Rangers, are particularly keen on reviving our respective status in that structure.

That’s confusing, to me. Both sides left the Reserve League in 2019 to focus on Colt teams [Herald], but it’s had the opposite effect from what was intended. In hindsight, it seems like a totally non-sensical decision, that’s stalled the progress of several young talents.

Is it as easy as swallowing our pride if the Colt plans fail again? Probably not. However, it might just be the best answer. Snobbery about playing level doesn’t improve players, playing matches does.

So, loans and proper, structure Reserve football might just be the answer here.

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