It's all upside for Greg Taylor, Celtic and Scotland
Few have benefitted from Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic revolution as much as Greg Taylor.
Signed in 2019 along with Boli Bolingoli to fill the void left by Kieran Tierney’s departure to Arsenal, Taylor first broke into the side before the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent curtailing of the Scottish Premiership season, sharing minutes with Diego Laxalt in the disastrous 2020-21 campaign prior to Postecoglou’s arrival.
Whilst many would have tipped him to join the 2021 summer exodus when the bulk of Neil Lennon’s squad departed, Taylor remained, and was consistently excellent in Celtic’s double-winning season.
As the only first team left back at the club with Liam Scales quickly considered surplus to requirements, it was essential that Taylor consistently performed, and he did, adapting himself perfectly in a modern inverted role in Postecoglou’s favoured system.
Despite making his Scotland debut in 2019, he has accumulated a mere eight caps since, owed chiefly to Scotland’s abundance of quality in the position with Kieran Tierney, Aaron Hickey and captain Andy Robertson all plying their trade in the Premier League.
It’s a difficult position for Taylor to stake a claim, as Scotland’s default system that enables both Tierney and Robertson to play on their favoured left side uses wing-backs, a position in which Taylor has filled for Celtic but it’s one that doesn’t play to his strengths. Arguably he’d be more suited as the left centre half of three – but realistically this position belongs to Kieran Tierney.
However, despite this making it seem like Taylor is the odd man out for his country, there are upsides to the situation for all involved.
Whilst Tierney is omnipresent for Scotland when fit and routinely excellent, his injury record is concerning, and he rarely completes blocks of games between international breaks without accumulating knocks. Taylor’s involvement gives the national team a composed, tactically-attuned option, cable of both maintaining control in a game and progressing the ball.
His club captain Callum McGregor has become essential for Scotland in a double-pivot with Billy Gilmour and is almost never rested, despite famously playing a ludicrous number of club games each season. With everyone fit, Taylor will likely play enough minutes over an international break to keep him ticking over, without being completely indispensable and thus basically guaranteed multiple extra games a season – necessitating rotation for Celtic down the line.
In Scotland’s 3-0 win over Ukraine last night, Robertson’s injury seemingly spurred Steve Clarke into moving from his usual system into something resembling a 4-4-2, with an orthodox back four, Taylor replacing Tierney in his favoured left back spot in the dying stages of the game. So long as he maintains his form for Celtic, he’ll be involved for the national side and will play minutes, even if only sporadically, which is testament to the level that he’s found under Postecoglou considering the quality in his position.
Whilst he may never nail down a starting spot for Clarke’s Scotland, Taylor’s role for the national side is one that – for the moment – suits him, Scotland and Celtic.
In other news: Ange Postecoglou reveals Celtic winter training camp plans