Celtic youngster Luca Connell has been a notable name in action for the club’s youth and reserve sides of late.
Signed by Neil Lennon from Bolton Wanderers last summer, the 18-year-old has yet to be seen in competitive senior action.
However, scoring goals and getting plenty of minutes under his belt in early 2020, he is surely now knocking on the door of the manager and pushing for a place in matchday squads.
His latest effort came just yesterday in an SPFL Reserve Cup semi-final against Hibernian, scoring a volley from the edge of the box to send the Bhoys on the way to a 4-1 victory.
With an excellent strike also scored late last month from outside the box in the Glasgow Cup and another netted against rivals Rangers at the start of February, it’s clear he’s found his shooting boots in action for the second-string.
It’s exciting to watch his progress, but can he make that jump into senior action?
Encouragingly for the Republic of Ireland youth international, his rise in the development squad at Celtic is coinciding with not only a Lennon tactical change but also an increasingly brutal schedule and even an injury to a key player.
The 3-5-2 system employed by the manager of late frees up a bit more room in the middle of the park and allows more flexibility in the style of any central trio that could be selected.
Whereas before it was rigidly a deeper two and a more attack-minded player further up the pitch, now Lennon can choose to have a flatter three or even someone in a defensive anchor role.
That suits Connell, who realistically was never going to be played behind a striker.
Scott Brown’s calf injury last week against Copenhagen last week was a timely reminder that Lennon’s go-to starting eleven can quickly find itself looking for bodies when big players drop out.
Players like Ryan Christie and Tom Rogic may be available but the latter is famously not the most reliable fitness-wise and Christie has also been utilised in wider attacking areas this season.
Connell’s progression could begin to see him at least make a matchday 18, especially if Celtic make it past Copenhagen, our crowning as nine-in-a-row champions becomes inevitable and league matches become less of a pressure cooker.
The ideal marriage of the Connell’s positive progression in reserve matches with conditions being right in the senior side could lead to the teenager being seen in action sooner rather than later.
With Lennon already utilising youngsters such as Jeremie Frimpong and Stephen Welsh this season, we know he isn’t afraid to test out his young talent.