There was plenty of frustration among the Celtic support when it emerged that Neil Lennon was to choose Jonny Hayes ahead of Greg Taylor for our crucial Europa League clash at the Stadio Olimpico.
Not only had we shelled out £2.2million (Daily Mail) for Taylor barely two months earlier, but Hayes wasn’t even really seen as a full-back at all. He was someone who had filled in there occasionally when needed. But in Rome against a top Serie A side? It was a tough ask.
But Lennon went with the Irishman and now, as Celtic prepare to face Rangers in the Betfred Cup final, it looks like a complete masterstroke.
Lennon has shown that he trusts Hayes
The Celtic boss is once again scratching his head about what to do at left-back ahead of the Hampden showpiece. Boli Bolingoli, who has been out since Lazio, doesn’t seem too likely to make the fixture while Greg Taylor is cup-tied after playing for Kilmarnock in an earlier round.
Lennon insisted Hayes “should be fine” at the weekend (Scottish Sun) so that would suggest another big start for the former Aberdeen man at Hampden.
Many will be less fearful about Hayes playing this time given his heroic display in the Stadio Olimpico. The player, himself, is likely to be more assured as well as his team mates. The feeling is that, if he can do it against Lazio, he should be fine against Rangers.
Who knows, maybe it was all a deliberate ploy from Lennon. He would have known the length of Bolingoli’s injury lay-off as well as Taylor’s cup-tied status. So perhaps he was always building towards this cup final with Hayes in mind.
Whether it was deliberate or not, it is a massive advantage to us that Hayes has already played some big games at left-back.