Celtic should push on with youth recruitment from England in January
Now that Celtic have made the permanent appointment of Nick Hammond as Head of Football Operations, the next phase in his plans for the club can begin.
The Hoops say that he has already conducted a review of the club’s recruitment and scouting processes, meaning we should be ready to ramp up preparations for the January transfer window.
While any quality first-team signings will likely be a priority, the mid-season market could be another chance to further bolster the youthful options at the club.
During the summer window it became a clear strategy of Hammond and manager Neil Lennon to attract young talents currently operating in English football to Scotland.
Luca Connell, Lee O’Connor, Jeremie Frimpong, Jonathan Afolabi, Tobi Oluwayemi all arrived from academies down south to progress their career in Glasgow.
The recent debut impact of Frimpong suggests that there’s plenty of untapped talent in England that can push towards Lennon’s first-team.
So who should Hammond be looking at next?
It’s perhaps inevitable that Celtic will be linked with players from Hammond’s old club West Bromwich Albion.
Hammond spent two years at the club, leaving in 2018, so will have a good knowledge of players who have been coming through their academy system and are now breaking into the first-team.
The Championship side have produced a number of notable youngsters in recent seasons with Louie Barry moving to Barcelona and Morgan Rogers currently developing at Manchester City.
One of the most exciting right now is defender Nathan Ferguson.
The 19-year-old spent the early stages of reserves career at the Baggies as a central defender but has broken into Slaven Bilic’s team as a full-back capable of playing on both flanks in recent months.
Making ten Championship appearances to date this, it could be a big ask to lure him from first-team football at the Hawthorns, especially with West Brom forging a path at the top of the table.
Intriguingly though his contract is due to expire at the end of the season. That creates conditions that Celtic should look to exploit in January.
He’d be free to speak to us and available for less compensation than other English sides would need to pay.
In the Premier League it’s obviously much harder for young players to make first-team appearances. For Anthony Scully at West Ham United, it’s not been something he’s managed. However, there are signs he has a bit of talent that should interest Celtic.
Currently he is in red hot form at reserves level, named Premier League 2 Player of the Month for September. He’s scored five goals in five appearances for the Hammers in that competition so far this season.
He’s the first West Ham player to win that particular award since Declan Rice in 2017. Emerging star Aaron Connolly was a stand-out at that level last year too, so it’s not the worst indicator that players are ready to take the next step in their careers.
A Republic of Ireland youth international, Scully can play in midfield and attack, making him a versatile option.
At 20 years of age he could be in the search of first-team football, something he is not getting in London.
Could Celtic be a viable destination?
Another West Brom youngster who is both getting regular Championship minutes and has an expiring contract, Kyle Edwards is an attractive prospect heading towards January.
Edwards actually broke into the Baggies first-team last season and has gone on to make 21 appearances in total.
Capable of playing in a variety of attacking midfield positions, he’s yet to truly specialise, but has been deployed mainly on the left flank this term.
He’s represented England with multiple age groups and currently has six caps at U20s level.
Can Celtic and Hammond manoeuvre to capitalise on Edwards’ contract situation in January?