Celtic Colts' Lowland League inclusion should halt academy exodus

By David Walton

May 12, 2021

Celtic Colts’ inclusion in next season’s Lowland League may be a controversial move, but it will hopefully solve a major Lennoxtown issue from continuing.

The Lowland League clubs voted in favour of including Celtic and Rangers into their division next season. The move has been done in order to improve player development in Scotland, but as of now is on a one-year-only basis.

For Celtic, this finally means they can give all of the players in their development squad the game-time they desperately crave at senior level. No, it’s not as high a division as many will want to ply their trade in for the long-term, but it gets them back playing again.

Ever since dropping out of the Reserve League, Celtic have seen quite the exodus of academy players leave. Liam Morrison and Barry Hepburn were the first ones to make way when Bayern Munich came calling. Michael Sparkes was the next to leave the football club over the course of the summer.

In more recent times, Liam Hughes has gone to Liverpool, whilst Cameron Harper signed for New York Red Bulls. Goodness knows what’s going to happen to the likes of Karamoko Dembele and Armstrong Okoflex in the summer either.

When Celtic sent Luca Connell on loan to League Two Queen’s Park several months ago, the player stated that he was just glad to finally get some game-time. This frustration has simply stemmed from not being given any real opportunities to play consistent football with the development squad.

Celtic inclusion in the Lowland League is a big plus for Hoops

That will be a frustration that runs through plenty of the academy Bhoys. We had to send the likes of Kerr McInroy, Jonathan Afolabi, Ewan Henderson, and Lee O’Connor out on loan in order for them to bag senior minutes.

Now, Celtic’s under-21s can remain at the club and play in a combative league that will strengthen their physical development. Okay, so some such as Henderson and Connell may feel they need to be playing at a higher level. That’s fine, but it’s a huge carrot for plenty of the younger and less experienced players to stay at Lennoxtown this summer.

At least they’ll now know that, as far away as they may be from the first team, they’ll be playing men’s football all season. Why leave Celtic to go and move to another academy and play under-21s football? There’s only so far that can take you, and the inclusion of the Colts in the Lowland League allows them to play against much more aggressive and even seasoned ex-pros.

Youngster Cameron Harper left Celtic for more game-time / (Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

It also gives Celtic the freedom to ensure some of their best young talent remains under their own roof. It allows them to develop at our own club whilst they experience a more competitive brand of football.

Granted, there is still a big place for the loan market at Celtic. As mentioned previously, the Lowland League isn’t the level plenty of our fringe youngsters will see themselves playing at next year. But with so many leaving over the last two years, this should be a carrot that keeps them at Celtic instead of thinking about potential summer moves.

Hopefully, that proves to be the case.

In other news, we take a look at the dynamite duo that could finally solve Celtic’s long-standing transfer problem.