Can Lee O'Connor make a big Celtic impact next year?
There is no doubt about which Celtic youth player has made the biggest impact on the first-team in 2019 – Jeremie Frimpong. The summer signing from Manchester City has been a revelation since making his debut against Partick Thistle, and could well be a Hoops first-team regular for years to come.
Frimpong’s success will no doubt have Celtic fans wondering about which other recent arrivals could find a regular place in Neil Lennon’s team.
There are plenty of reasons to think that player is summer signing from Manchester United, Lee O’Connor.
O’Connor was signed at the same time as Frimpong, but unlike the right-back he has yet to make a first-team appearance for the Hoops. We believe that could change in 2020.
Can play in variety of positions
O’Connor can play in a variety of positions, including both right and left-back, and in central defence. Normally that might be a hindrance for a player. However, that could actually help O’Connor at Celtic.
O’Connor has been a mainstay of Celtic’s Academy side since joining the Hoops, and has also been a regular for the Ireland under-21 side. However, he has now graduated to the senior Ireland squad, and recently made hie debut in the 3-1 win over New Zealand, which saw him set up Ireland’s opening goal.
The player would have enjoyed that bit of experience he has had with the international squad. He will want to replicate that experience with Celtic.
Versatility could help him
That is where his versatility could help him. Celtic currently have plenty of options at left and right-back, but the same can’t be said at centre-back.
Therefore, if any Hoops centre-back suffers an injury O’Connor can be put into the squad to replace them. He has the bonus of being a natural defender, unlike Nir Bitton, for example. We have seen already this season that Neil Lennon has no issue about rotating his full-backs. That could count in O’Connor’s favour.
It should also be taken into account that some of Celtic’s full-backs might not be at the club next season. There has to be question marks over the future of Moritz Bauer, and Jonny Hayes. Should either of those players depart, O’Connor is ready as a replacement.
O’Connor will hope to travel to Dubai with the Hoops during the winter break. Should he make that trip, it would show that a first-team appearance might not be that far away.
Even if he doesn’t make the trip, hopefully O’Connor will make a first-team appearance before the end of the season. At only 19, and with a four-year deal, time is on his side. Who knows, this time next year Frimpong and O’Connor could be Celtic’s starting full-backs.
That is a situation few would have predicted. Still, it can happen, and we at 67 Hail Hail believe that 2020 will prove to be a big year for Lee O’Connor.