Every Celtic fans is well aware that in recent years there has been a trend towards some of our most promising young players leaving the club painfully early. There are a number of reasons why this happens, and appreciatively, not only of them are within our control.
Some young players would prefer to do their development at clubs abroad, taking advantage of the opportunity to go to training every day alongside superstars … others are offered the money and take it too early, without thinking about whether they should.
Celtic fans have seen it all before. The latest player to leave way too soon was Ben Doak who went to Liverpool and is already on the fringes of their first team. He was extremely well thought of at Celtic Park, as evidenced by Ange blooding him … there is very little doubt that he would already be playing regularly at Parkhead if he had stayed.
We need more players like Ben coming through the ranks, and that’s why it was particularly good to see Ange and Peter Lawwell attending the youth cup final, and even more thrilling was that the young Hoops played a style of football that was very familiar.
At his presser today I got to ask him about the youth side and wondered whether or not the club now had a guiding philosophy which everyone was adhering to.
This is no minor matter. At clubs throughout Europe, there are guiding principles which flow from the senior side all the way down to the lowest ranks on the development ladder. Teams play the same sort of football, even at some clubs the exact same tactics. Ange has eschewed that idea; we’re developing more than just players at Celtic.
But there are, as he pointed out, certain fundamentals which are inextricably linked to the way we play. Attacking football is part of the club’s DNA, and so any Celtic side, at any level, will attempt to play that way.
Yet I do believe that his answer hinted at an over-arching plan being followed which binds all the various levels together and makes it easier for good players to transition between them, and this might be important for the future.
Following the game, where there were a couple of obvious standouts amongst what was a very good team performance, reports in the media suggested that Crystal Palace and other clubs had been alerted to the talents and form of one player in particular; Mitchel Frame, who played wide left and absolutely terrorised the Ibrox defence for the whole time he was on the pitch. He sealed an impressive performance overall with a goal.
Frame has been the subject of plenty of interest before now; this, however, is where the club should finally draw a line in the sand and start tying down our best on long term deals, giving these guys a clear pathway towards first team games and spelling out precisely the means by which that goal will be achieved.
Frame is a left back; this is still, in some ways, a problem position for us. Whilst Taylor has been exceptional, Bernabei still has things to prove. There is an opportunity here for this kid if he’s got the talent and the dedication to grab it.
Regardless, this is where the drain of talent from our academy should be brought to a halt. This is where we should be starting to reverse this awful trend.
There is a feeling that in some ways we’ve been too passive in how we’ve developed our young players, and about providing that first team route to them.
I do believe that Ange is the driving force behind the obvious changes in that regard … he knows the value of this as well as we do. I’m sure, as someone who values development, it’s instructive to him to see that we have three academy produced players who have played regularly in the team during his tenure … he knows that it can be a source of great talent for the team.
He will want to start building this into his Celtic legacy, and if his ideas really are now filtering through in the way that game suggested, we have a lot to look forward to in that regard.