Celtic youngsters like Karamoko Dembele can't be punished for showing ambition

By Euan Davidson

March 26, 2022

Yesterday, we shared a report with you stating that Karamoko Dembele had knocked on former Celtic manager Neil Lennon’s door, asking for more minutes.

It didn’t exactly go to plan for the Celtic youngster [The Athletic]. Dembele was handed just 11 more minutes in the entire 20-21 season, despite looking as if he’d be a regular in the opening games.

Having had a day to reflect on it, it’s a situation that seems more and more bizarre. Of course, we’ll never know the full ins and outs of the conversation. However, on the face of it, Karamoko Dembele was showing real initiative and ambition, in wanting to play more for Celtic.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Say what you will about a manager’s responsibilities. They can’t guarantee playing time to everyone who asks for it. But this seems like a drastic miscalculation on Neil Lennon’s part, and you have to hope Ange Postecoglou isn’t similarly inclined.

Celtic youngsters should want to believe they deserve more time on the pitch. That’s the exact attitude that the next generation of Academy talents should have; I’m here, you called me up, play me. There’s a steeliness and self-belief in that, which is absolutely vital.

Celtic can’t have a generation of shrinking violets coming through the youth set-up. We need players who believe in themselves to Karamoko’s level. It’s not arrogance when you put the work in and want it to be rewarded. All Karamoko wanted to do was impress for the club that’s trained him for years.

Ambition is a good thing; for Celtic youngsters like Karamoko Dembele, that needs to be rewarded

Again, we don’t know how Karamoko Dembele came across in his chat with Neil Lennon, specifically. However, Karamoko has never struck me as the type to barge in to a manager’s office, demanding minutes.

There’s probably far more nuance to it than that. And while managers don’t like being told what to do, necessarily, is there really anything wrong with a player suggesting he could do more if he’s played with increased regularity?

I don’t think so. What a shame it would be if, after that, young players can’t feel as though they can talk to the first-team manager, and put themselves in the reckoning for minutes.

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

A competitive culture at training, and young players showing determination doesn’t strike to me as a bad thing. Ange Postecoglou has given more opportunities to young players, and it’s paid off. Whether these were minutes that were asked for by players is another thing, but it’s beside the point.

Coaches, scouts and the rest can tell you how ready a player is for more involvement. Even better, though, is a player telling you themselves. Whether you choose to believe it, it’s moxie that should deserves credit rather than scorn.

It’s not entitled to want to give yourself every chance.

To me, that’s what it seemed like Karamoko Dembele did. He was punished for it.

The next time something like this happens – and it will, if it hasn’t already – Ange Postecoglou can’t make the mistake Neil Lennon made.

But you wouldn’t necessarily expect him to.

Read more: The Celtic advantage that’s delighting manager Ange Postecoglou