The forgotten Academy talent who re-emerged at exactly the right time for Celtic boss
Thursday feels like an age ago now, but it was a particularly great night for Celtic Academy graduate Ewan Henderson.
Having broken through under Brendan Rodgers, Henderson seemed to disappear. Neil Lennon used him against Lille in a 3-2 win, as a right wing-back. But after that, the younger brother of Serie A man Liam was nowhere to be seen.
Barring some brief appearances in pre-season, following a spell alongside Kerr McInroy at Dunfermline Athletic, it seemed Postecoglou was the third manager to not prioritise the midfielder. What a shame, too; there’s very clearly a talented player there. Must be good genes, because Liam was probably let go too early.
So when he came on, albeit in less than fortuitous circumstances for Celtic, it was a nice surprise. Even nicer when, on the 72nd minute, the Celtic Academy graduate scored with his first touch [BBC].
Does this mean Ewan Henderson is now guaranteed an automatic first-team spot? No, of course not. However, a player adapt in the number 10 role has emerged – again – as an option for Celtic. With the January transfer window coming up, Henderson’s timing couldn’t really have been better.
With Tom Rogic having dealt with injury issues, and David Turnbull playing every one of Celtic’s 31 competitive fixtures, depth in creative spaces is particularly important. The Hoops look likely to bring in two midfielders, Ideguchi and Hatate, from the J League. But neither are pure number 10s in the way Henderson can be.
Celtic Academy graduate Ewan Henderson makes impression for Bhoys boss Ange Postecoglou
The way Celtic play, essentially with two number 10s in Turnbull and Rogic, it’s extremely risky to not have significant back-up. Henderson could be that.
His mobility has never been an issue. And, he’s got the tools to be a threat in front of goal with an excellent positional sense. That was proven in his goal against Real Betis [BT Sport], where he effortlessly shrugged off the Betis defender to tap in from short range.
At 21, there’s still a future at Celtic for Ewan Henderson. It would be a pointless waste not to use him. Especially when, if you think about it, have we ever see him have a bad game for the club?
Versatility is a boost, of course, and the Academy graduate has proven he’s happy playing across the pitch. That was best shown against Lille last season, when he came on for Frimpong and had a stormer in a position he’d never played at professional level. Let alone European.
It’s easy to have forgotten about him, disrespectful as that sounds. You could argue that there’s maybe something in training he hasn’t been doing, else he would have seen more action by now.
But the few times he’s on the pitch, he’s excited Celtic supporters in one way or another. Now, if his skill set is attuned to be a central attacking threat for the Ange Postecoglou, he can at least be excellent cover for Rogic or Turnbull.
Celtic could go out and spend a couple of million on a player to mould into a suitable replacement for the aforementioned duo. Or, Ange Postecoglou could continue to put some faith in the Academy talents at his disposal. For my money, if not the club’s, it’s worth trying Ewan Henderson.