‘Mighty oaks from little acorns grow ’ so the saying goes. It’s a saying that Celtic Football Club could be defined by. We have a history of looking within for heroes. When our squad took the field in the Scottish Cup Final we had four players in the matchday squad who came through our academy. That would have been five if Kieran Tierney had been fit. Add to that Kristoffer Ajer who has been at the club since his sweet sixteen. Our two-goal hero Odsonne Edouard has been at the club from eighteen.
Most of the focus was on Mikey Johnston. He had a starring performance the week before he started the Cup Final. Like most young players, his golden moments are polished with love and his poor moments are seen as a stick to beat our youth program with. There is no hiding place when the audience is this tough. Johnston has tight curled hair to match his tight tricks and looks and feels fresh.
He is a typical Celtic product but a hybrid of ingredients. He has the pace and cunning. Though he played over twenty times and scored five goals last season, there is a feeling that he is now at the crossroads. He is too good for youth football but needs games at the senior level.
Ewan Henderson is another who is trying to be noticed in the crowd of midfield options. Slight, with drifting energy, and an eye for a pass. He has something different from the other options we have. These are only trailers to a possible blockbuster to be released at a later date. The story and plot need to be filled and a bulk up is required. Unlike Mikey, he has played little senior football and is also at that dangerous crossroad.
The headline that is Karamoko Dembele caused excitement when he made his debut during the last game of the season. He enthused the crowd in a dull encounter. Diminutive, direct and daring when he had the ball. We could see glimpses of the YouTube clips we have watched for years, but he still looks like a kid who has won a competition to appear on the pitch.
The discarded glove of Islam Feruz informs everything we are doing with Dembele, with older team-mates handing him the Scottish Cup and him having more league medals than most managers. Making him feel part of the future and that this dear green place is the place to develop.
Celtic recently announced that they preparing to pull out the reserve league. They deem it not fit for purpose to develop first team players. Is this the play to get a colt team in the lower league? Celtic have been vocal on this. They have also used the loan system but would rather players develop and play under the eye of Celtic. Then we have the rumours of the passport heavy and costly reserve Atlantic League. It’s clear that it’s not only players that are at a development crossroad.
The players return in a few weeks for pre-season training. Some will get more time off due to international commitments. This staggered return will see the younger members of the squad get attention and game time. Players raise their attitude and application when they step up. These youngsters will be running faster, showing more and being sponges to the new instructions of the new gaffer. We all hope the mighty acorns grow.
Kevin GrahamListen to the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind podcast