Owen Moffat Leaving Celtic Shows That The First Team Path Is Harder To Walk Than Ever.

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The decision, today, to let Owen Moffat leave our club to join Blackpool on a three-year deal surprised me. But it probably shouldn’t have, because all this kid has really done here is acknowledge a basic reality.

He was a long way from first team football.

Those who have watched Moffat over the last few years know full well that this is a kid who the club had once had high hopes for, and he looked as if he might beat the odds and prove worthy of those hopes. He is a very talented player; he will not go down there and disappear into obscurity. You will hear his name again, and he’ll do well in the game.

But his departure from Celtic shows again that the distance between our youth side and the first team squad is absolutely enormous. Those kids who have been promoted from one to the other have to possess something exceptional and extraordinary to be able to make the transition and the simple truth is that too few of them do.

As we’ve talked about before, it isn’t enough to be talented either.

You have to be driven. You have to be possessed of phenomenal self-belief. And you need to be willing to grab, with both hands, the opportunities which come your way.

Too few of our kids are able to make that leap, and I feel bad for many of them whilst recognising that they are almost certainly doing the right thing in choosing to leave.

Moffat must have, over the summer, seen that his chances were going to be increasingly limited … the path to first team football was being steadily narrowed for him.

With the arrival of Sead Haksabanovic those options shrunk to nothing.

He and the club have made the sad, but inevitable, decision to go our separate ways. I hope that he is not discouraged. I hope that other young players aren’t discouraged.

We are a special team right now, and you need to have something a bit special to get in to it.

There will be other Tierney’s and McGregor’s; that is a certainty.

The road to the first team is difficult, and although the challenge was too much to overcome for this kid others are going to get there.

In the meantime, good luck to Owen Moffat for his future.

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  • Benjamin says:

    Good article James. Owen Moffat deserves our well wishes as he starts his professional career.

    The lack of youth players making the breakthrough isn’t unique to Celtic. This is a problem at almost every Champions League level club because of the level required to break into a squad of that quality.

    One thing I’d like to see – and I’m realistic enough about it to know that it’ll never happen – is for Celtic to have a formal policy whereby one youth team player is given 20-30 minutes every game in which Celtic is ahead by 2+ goals at the 60 minute mark. Who the player is would obviously rotate from game to game, and most of the kids won’t be of the same quality as the starting 11. But it will give them an opportunity to play at the highest level for a few minutes every month or two. It’ll be a huge learning experience for both the kids and the coaching staff to see what these kids need to work on on the training ground in the following weeks. It can also serve as a huge carrot to these kids who are close to 1st team level as they know they’re not going to be entirely blocked out – they’ll get an opportunity to prove their value every month or two. Some will rise to the occasion and surprise the coaching staff. And by making these appearances conditional on the team already being comfortably ahead in the 2nd half, there shouldn’t be any risk of dropping points and risking the league title (or cup run).

    • MarkE says:

      Yip we’ve tried that, only for big clubs down south to poach our players, like Liverpool with Doak recently; they also signed a young goalkeeper from us, Hughes…then there was Hepburn and Morrison moving to Bayern Munich prior to this, and other similar cases.

      The clubs in a position where if they don’t tie young players down on long professional contracts, chances are they’ll lose them, but even if they do tie them down, they’ll likely struggle to get first team opportunities and their development will stagnate.

      Celtic need to(and maybe do now?) spot these special players early enough to sign them on long term contracts and maybe send them out on loan if they’re not able to facilitate them into the first team squad.

      I suppose one positive in all of this is that our youth system is producing quality players, even if we’re not getting to enjoy them wear the hoops in the first team.

      • MarkE says:

        *one other stumbling block though is UEFA regulations that stipulate that a player needs to be signed with a club for 3 years between the age of 15-21, and only one of these years can be on loan to another club which must be part of the same national association, in order to be able to be included in a clubs 25 man European squad as part of our 8 home grown player quota, 4 of whom(minimum) need to be from our own youth system. These players do not need to be nationals of the clubs country.

        Other clubs like Munich and Liverpool can accommodate this easily as they have strong league structures at youth level for players to develop in, whereas we’re stuck with Scotland.

        Its probably easier for the club to make up this quota, outwith our 4 youth system players, by signing players from other Scottish teams, and as things stand atm, we have enough players who’ve come through our own system to fill this quota, and seemingly none of our current youth players could realistically replace Welsh, McGregor, Ralston, Forrest, Robertson, Johnston adequately, or take the place of Turnbull, McCarthy, Taylor, Bain or any of the others currently in the first team periphery or out on loan.

  • jrm63 says:

    Its a real problem. Celtic can play Siegrist,Ralston, Bernabei, Jenz, Welsh, Mooy, Turnbull, Haksabonovic, Madea, GG, Forrest tomorrow night.
    None of these players started in the 9-0 demolition.

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