Celtic defender Stephen Welsh has proven himself in big games already; Scotland cap is surely next

By Euan Davidson

August 21, 2021

Imagine you were Celtic and Scotland U21 defender Stephen Welsh, for a second.

In late 2019, you were on loan at Greenock Morton, having come through the Celtic Academy. It’s an unspectacular spell in Inverclyde, although 15 Championship appearances represents decent experience.

Then, not long after, you’re thrown into the senior Celtic side in the midst of an injury crisis. The big games come thick and fast: Rangers, Europa League, all the rest. And steadily, improvement comes. All of a sudden, you’re something of a poster boy for the club, a guaranteed starter (in the absence of Jullien), and playing at a very high level under a radical, attacking coach.

A coach that expects a lot of mobility from his defenders, by the way. You’d be delighted, wouldn’t you?

Especially if your manager is touting your abilities to the press, in such emphatic style, too.

If Welsh was raw but promising last season, he’s an entirely different prospect this campaign. In a much more settled defence, Welsh has thrown his body at every shot, made every tackle he needed to, passed the ball with confidence and shown leadership, despite his tender years.

Celtic could land three more new recruits this weekend

Celtic could land three more new recruits this weekend
67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

There’s a real chance that Jullien will struggle to get back into the Celtic team if he keeps it up. The next step, surely then, is a Scotland nod from boss Steve Clarke.

Celtic defender Stephen Welsh surely has Scotland on his mind, and vice versa

Let’s face it; Scotland aren’t exactly gifted in central defence. Declan Gallagher, Scott McKenna, Grant Hanley, Liam Cooper et al are fine on their day [Sky Sports], but Welsh’s dynamism and growth under Ange Postecoglou could end up setting him apart.

Jack Hendry is now a Scotland regular, and I’d argue that Welsh has been more impressive than the Oostende man ever was in the Green and White. Called up for Scot Gemmill’s U21s squad, he surely has the senior squad on his mind.

And honestly, you wouldn’t blame him. Nor Stevie Clarke for picking him.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

It’s still very early days in Welsh’s Celtic career, of course. Bigger tests will come, but there’s no doubt he’s been one of our best players so far this season. His display against AZ Alkmaar was a new peak, and surely he’ll be feeling the confidence from a show of faith by Postecoglou.

Nobody’s saying this defence is “fixed”. But arguably, the two most worrisome parts – purely due to a lack of experience – have become the biggest assets. Anthony Ralston and Welsh have been on excellent form.

It’s not unrealistic to suggest that, this season, the Celtic defender could break into the senior Scotland side.

You wouldn’t have predicted that even a year ago.

Read more: Chris Sutton sums it up perfectly