Italian Interest Must Not Force Celtic Into A Too Early Decision On Rocco Vata.

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I’ve been reading a lot today about Rocco Vata, and the consensus seems to be that Celtic faces a difficult decision over this young man, one that we dare not get wrong.

The demands that we offer him a new deal are loud, as are the demands that we give him what every young player wants most, which is games, time in the team, and the chance to grow.

All very understandable.

But in a way, all lamentably short-sighted and wrong.

Because who really believes that if Rocco Vata were ready that he would not already be in the team, and playing every week? Do people think we spend money just for the sake of it? I know that there are some hacks who continually use this as a stick to beat us with, but I’ve written multiple times why they are dead, dead wrong. Celtic does not throw quality youth players away.

There is a simple pathway option at Celtic which is open to our kids and always has been; show that you are good enough to make the grade and you will get the chance to convince everybody of that.

Until then, they have only to impress the people who watch them every week, the coaches and the manager himself. It’s those qualified professionals who decide when a young player at our club is good enough, and when they are ready.

We surely need no more evidence that the gap between B football and the Celtic first team squad is vast than that which already exists, when you watch someone like Stephen Welsh or Mikey Johnston, two young players who have broken through in the last few years.

These guys are probably the best of the what we’ve graduated in recent years, with one notable exception, that of Ben Doak, who had the chance to be a regular here and opted for Anfield. We can’t blame him for that, but we can’t blame Celtic for it either.

Neither Welsh nor Johnston is close to being a first pick. Not near it.

Since time immemorial at Celtic – we are a club with a fine record for youth development – the rule has been that when you’re good enough you’re old enough. There are towering monuments to that fact playing football at the top level right now, two of them in our current squad in Forrest and Callum McGregor, and Kieran Tierney at Arsenal. Ralston is still at Parkhead and still playing, and so are the aforementioned Welsh and Johnston.

Rocco Vata is a good player, and we’ve all heard that and we know it.

But listen, if there was a genuine, next-level standout in the Celtic academy right now then we would already know his name because that’s what it means to be a standout. These guys have been playing against fifth tier teams these past few years, a fact which alone is enough to convince me that there isn’t some superstar we just won’t give games to … that player would have blown the competition out already and everyone would know exactly what it was that we had.

Ask any scout if they have a hard job, and you know what most of them will say?

Actually, they have the easiest job in the world because real talent is crystal clear the first time you see it. The reason clubs scout multiple times is to remove doubt … but that initial impression contains much of what any good scout already needs to know.

Why do you think people were talking about Islam Feruz and Karamoko Dembele years before we actually saw them sign their first professional deals? And how did it go with those two anyway, who clearly had talent so clear it was virtually screaming to be acknowledged?

Well they are currently nowhere, although Dembele could yet do something, because there’s also all that other X-factor stuff which you learn about players as you go; maturity, the ability to play under pressure, temperament and the like and it all comes to bear.

The hard truth is that there’s nobody at this moment in time, nobody whose ability is so clear and obvious that they merit a first team place … and that’s sad and awful to write but it’s also a clear acknowledgement of what those inside Celtic know.

When Rocco Vata is ready to be a Celtic first team player he will be, that’s it, because every club wants to bring through youth and no club which had players in the academy capable of saving it millions of pounds would spend that money instead … he plays in a front line position, so I’m curious who people would drop to give him the game time?

I hate it when youth players leave this club, but I don’t regard it as the same tragedy as others do. The tragedy is that they weren’t good enough to stay and be playing every week, not that we’ve made some momentous mistake and allowed someone really special to walk out the door.

I am wary of such talk because so many who have promised to be that have utterly failed to live up to the tag. I won’t say Rocco Vata won’t … but he hasn’t yet.

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