On St. Stephen's Day, we ask: what is happening with Celtic defender Stephen Welsh?

By Euan Davidson

December 26, 2020

Celtic defender Stephen Welsh shares his name with a Christian martyr, don’t you know?

Today, many around the world will celebrate the feast of St. Stephen. Stoned to death at some time between AD 33 and 36, St. Stephen was the first Christian martyr, with his death witnessed by the Apostle Paul.

Such is the protomartyr’s influence, the tower that houses Big Ben was once known as St. Stephen’s tower. There’s St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin, and the Basilica di Santo Stefano Maggiore in Milan, as well as many other architectural tributes.

What does this have to do with Celtic, you might ask? Well, in possibly the year’s roughest segue, I wanted to ask you this: what’s happened to our own Stephen, defender Stephen Welsh?

Stephen Welsh in U-21 action for Scotland / (Photo by Lukasz Sobala/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images)

Stephen Welsh: forgotten man?

If you’ll forgive the continued religious theme of the article, you could argue that Welsh endured a baptism of fire in 2020 (Sky Sports).

During an early-season injury crisis, Welsh started for Celtic in a 2-0 loss to Rangers. While he made an alright account of himself, it was hardly an incredible defensive display.

Since that game, Welsh has barely made an impact, despite Celtic’s emphasis on youth in recent weeks. With Ajer and Jullien preferred, and Bitton and Duffy behind them in the pecking order, the young Stephen has found opportunities hard to come by.

Considering the team’s form, that’s strange. Yes, he lacks the height of Duffy or Bitton but before Jullien came back, he was nowhere to be seen. That feels a little harsh.

His range of passing from the back is good, while he shows good composure. A slim figure at a surprising 6’1″, he roughly fits the profile of the current Celtic defender.

So why has the dismal Duffy played ahead of him?

Celtic youngster Welsh battling against Rangers / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Celtic youth movement has left Welsh behind

Against Lille, Celtic gave minutes to Conor Hazard, Ismaila Soro, David Turnbull and Ewan Henderson (BBC). Welsh, however, was nowhere to be seen. The same was true against Kilmarnock and Ross County; he didn’t even make the bench last week (BBC).

What’s going on there?

If Welsh really wants to kick-start his development, he may need to depart Celtic on loan this January. Senior internationals are ahead of him in the Celtic defence and barring another injury crisis, that won’t change.

It’d be very sad to see Celtic lose another promising defender. Aaron Hickey was once at Celtic, but now plays for Bologna (Sky Sports). Stuart Findlay has been decent for Kilmarnock since leaving Celtic. We never made much use of Eoghan O’Connell, and Lee O’Connor must improve to avoid the same fate.

Celtic’s ability to produce defenders has been an area of concern for a while. Not since Kieran Tierney has an academy graduate truly made the grade in Celtic’s defence. Going forward, we need to know why that is.

So, today, consider Stephen Welsh. Will he see much action in 20-21 or does he need a move to kick-start his career? We hope it’s the former.