There are a couple of Celtic fan sites, including VideoCelts, which offer an excellent analysis of how our on-loan players are doing.
There are less of them out there than there have been in previous years; there are only three at the moment who might be considered first team capable players and one of those – Nadir Ciftci – is almost certainly never coming back.
The others are Scott Allan and Ryan Christie.
They are playing football here in Scotland, and they may both return to Celtic Park one day soon. Christie, it seems to me, definitely will. He has the talent to be a huge player for us. Allan has always been a strange signing, but he has a good skill set and could yet prove something to the manager.
They are not alone in having something to prove. There are players currently at the club who I think would have benefited from going out into the world, but the manager has kept them here because we need a strong squad and they are useful to have around.
I mean guys like Kristofer Ajer; he has proven his value to the team by being pitched in at central defence when other options haven’t been available. Liam Henderson’s position is a tougher one to navigate. He certainly has the ability to play for Celtic but he is competing for a berth in the most crowded part of the team. A guy like him should be playing first team football somewhere; I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go back out on loan.
We have three right backs at the club; Lustig, Gamboa and the hugely talented Ralston.
Young Tony is going to be a star; it’s crystal clear.
When all three are fit I would reckon he’s our second choice, in front of the player we signed for West Brom in the last campaign. I would be loathe to see him go out on loan but I would understand if the manager thought it was for the best.
There are no such doubts on our left flank. Calvin Miller is a fine young footballer, and is now our most able deputy for Tierney. The manager has talked about the possibility of playing Jonny Hayes as a full back if something happens to Kieran but Miller is the better bet. I don’t see him being allowed to go out on loan whilst he’s filling that role … he, like Ralston, still plays regularly for the Development Team, but that’s not the level we need him at.
There will be opportunities for Kouassi Eboue; the manager clearly likes him a lot and he’s definitely a first-team player. But like Henderson he is competing in a packed area which already includes Rogic, Armstrong, Brown, Ntcham and Callum McGregor. His advantage is that whilst four out of the five are attacking players he plays in the same sort of role as Brown, that of a hard-tackling ball winner. The manager has an eye on the future there.
Up front, the opportunities are even more limited. Griffiths and Dembele are already locked in competition for our single striker position, and whilst there is room for Leigh to play wide that’s another area where we have good choices already.
In addition to that, Forrest and Sinclair have both proved that they can play the more central need when the need arises.
This, unfortunately, has curtailed the development of our own loan striker Eduardo and, more frustratingly, that of you Jack Aitchison, who I think all of us would enjoy seeing getting some game time in the first team side.
Curiously enough, I think the unbeaten run has held him back as much as anything; the longer it goes on the more pressure we’re under to keep it going. If we’d lost a game already I think Brendan would have felt better giving this kid and some of the others time out on the pitch.
This is the price of success. I would have said, under other circumstances, that we would see more of our youth players as the season went on and we put a solid league lead in the bank … but who out there would risk an unbeaten run and more records just to see a few home grown players in the Hoops?
The question is, does this hurt us for the future? Do these guys all have a future at Celtic Park? Which deserve the chance to shine? It actually speaks volumes about the strength of our squad that we have so many good players knocking on the door.
None of these guys should be written off; Brendan will reward high standards and good performances.
18 months ago I didn’t think Callum McGregor and James Forrest had a future at Parkhead. Both are now regulars. A year ago I’d have said Nir Bitton was gone. He is now an integral part of the squad. Six months ago I was amazed to see Dedryk Boyata back in the team. Brendan now regards him as the best central defender at Celtic Park and it is awfully hard to disagree with that assessment.
I’ll be interested to read your comments, folks.