In defence of Shane Duffy; his Celtic form isn't good enough but 2020 hasn't been kind to him

By John McGinley

October 27, 2020

After a dramatic week for Celtic on the pitch, manager Neil Lennon has circled the wagons around one of his players today.

The Bhoys boss has hit out at over the top criticism of defender Shane Duffy after several high profile mistakes that have led to opposition goals.

The most recent one came against Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Sunday.

Lennon said, as quoted by The Daily Record: “Players getting singled out and abused, it is absolutely shocking. If that’s the way of the modern world. I am glad I am not a player any more.

“Shane needs to find his feet. He has had a bumpy week, nothing more nothing less. It happens. I am not happy with the treatment he is getting from certain quarters of the media.

“It is hysterical. Comments that he is rank rotten and he is a bombscare. I find that ridiculous.”

It’s fair to say that much of the Celtic support are unhappy with Duffy at the moment, despite the manager’s comments.

His loan move from Brighton during the summer was a high-profile one and there was plenty of excitement about his arrival.

A hard-hitting Derry man, a Republic of Ireland captain no less, arriving at Paradise in a potential ten-in-a-row season – it’s fairytale stuff.

Yet it all appears to be going a bit wrong and there is a growing tide speaking out against his selection.

Celtic defender Shane Duffy after conceding vs Aberdeen / (Photo by Scott Baxter/Getty Images)

I’m not on a high horse here.

While, obviously, I haven’t resorted to personal abuse, I have been critical of Duffy myself recently, most notably on the 67 Hail Hail YouTube channel with Hamish Carton and Jackie McNamara.

As a fan, and sadly on occasion a critic, of Celtic it can be hard to find the nuanced balance when tackling an issue such as Duffy’s form.

I don’t want to slate him but, at the same time, I think questions need to be asked about his signing and whether he is suitable for the Celtic defence.

At 67 Hail Hail, we often receive correspondence in reaction to our output, that can be an offhand Tweet raging at us, or a great long-form e-mail.

The latter arrived today on the Shane Duffy issue, and it was thoughtful enough for me to write this article in response.

It basically reminded me that the Irish defender has had an awful 2020.

None of us has had it easy this year, but in May, Duffy’s world was rocked by the sad passing of his father Brian, a massive Celtic fan.

Now I’m often hesitant to bring a player’s personal life into his on the pitch form, but Duffy has already referenced the fact he is at Celtic Park partly because his father loved the Hoops so much.

Duffy told reporters after he signed, as reported by The Irish Mirror: “I lost my dad recently who was a proud Irish man. He always dreamed about me playing for Celtic. My dad will be in the back of my mind when I go out onto the pitch.

“But I’m a professional. I need to go out and do my job and I’m sure that will make my mum, my family and fans proud of me. My first thoughts are to go out and do it for the club, the manager and my team-mates. That’s the important thing for me.”

It’s a relevant point to consider that none of this can be easy for him.

When my own father passed away in 2018, it brought up all sorts of emotions with regards to Celtic. Much of our knowledge and passion for the club is passed on by our fathers, mothers, uncles, aunties and grandparents.

It can be a massive wrench to support, follow and think of the team in the context of what they would have wanted or thought about the situation.

Shane Duffy scores on his Celtic debut / (Photo by Paul Campbell/Getty Images)

It’s complicated. And with things going so wrong right now, it’s no surprise he’s looking short of confidence.

When you consider that Lennon has also discussed the fact Duffy had to undergo emergency dental surgery before this run of games (The Daily Record), as well as the player moving cities and being isolated from his friends and families right now because of pandemic restrictions, I genuinely have sympathy for the lad.

Would Duffy even have played all three of these recent games had we not suffered a defensive injury crisis?

This is a professional game, and the work Duffy does for Celtic is a job he gets paid very well for. Modern footballers are born to cope under pressure.

I make no excuses for his current form. I also know he needs to improve if he’s going to be the defensive answer we need.

I just hope that in this case, we realise it’s not as simple as labelling someone a ‘bombscare’ and moving on to the next target.