Forrest And McGregor Are The Icons Any Young Celtic Player Can Be … If They Stay That Is.

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Of all the recent stories in our club’s history, there is one that stands, for any young player, as the cautionary tale to end them all. It is the story of how Islam Feruz was basically raised up by Celtic, elevated as a prospect, how greed and money lured him to London for what I am sure he assumed was his first big contract, and how that contract and the modest increase that followed it proved to be the final real money he would ever earn in the game.

He signed for Chelsea, of course, but never made a first team appearance. The kid who many hoped, but few really believed, would light up Celtic Park left this club, as most close to the action knew he was going to, having made no first team appearances.

He finished his “career” – if you want to call it that – in his early 20’s with only a handful of senior games in total. He never scored a senior goal. He sells hats now.

If Islam Feruz had his head screwed on, if he was not full of himself, if he was prepared to wait and be patient, if he was willing to listen to good guidance – that one is crucial – then he would have had a career in the game. Had he stayed at Celtic he would have gotten that guidance, as he was getting it all the way up to the moment that he left.

Islam Feruz could have been at Celtic still, earning better money than either of his Chelsea contracts was worth, with the cash assured far into the future. Well, I hope he made plenty of it from those initial deals. It’s to last him the rest of his life.

As I’ve said, he is the extreme example, the cautionary tale, but there hasn’t exactly been a line round of the block of young players who have opted to leave here and gone on to better things. Even Ben Doak, with all his potential, isn’t there yet and might not make it. I think he will, he’s got his head screwed on, but he’ll be one of the very few.

Celtic fans have seen it all with this stuff. We’ve seen good players make it into the team, dazzle us, and depart. Nicholas, Dalglish … if we can survive the loss of super talents like they were we can survive the departure of young players who haven’t made it yet. But I’ll tell you; if the Nicholas’s and Dalglish’s had been this impatient for first team football we might never have seen what they had to offer us, and I don’t know that they’d have been able to do it elsewhere.

Because we provided all the lessons and experience these kids needed and at the right time. And whilst this window will see us go out and spend money, and probably a good bit of it, one immutable fact of football remains and it always will; when you are good enough you are old enough.

If Daniel Kelly emerges as one of the best midfielders at Celtic he will be in the team and eventually he’ll get the big bucks, and he can feel confident of a career. If you’re leaving Celtic now, at this point in your career, you better enjoy the three or four times the salary whilst someone is paying you it. Because if you don’t get first team football and end up in regression it’ll be the biggest payday you ever have, and a one-off contract at that.

Rumours linking him to Spurs and Man United are flattering, I’m sure. But if he’s not getting into the Celtic side regularly how the Hell does he think he’s getting into one of those two teams anytime soon? He apparently does want to stay; he needs to have a word with his agent on that one, and get something signed. I would be very pleased if he did.

The Rocco Vata saga seems to have gone on forever, and I’ve not changed my mind on that one; I think it’s a soap opera and I don’t get it, because his impact on Celtic has been zero, nil, nada. He has played a handful of games, even in the midst of an injury crisis. I want our best young talents to stay. If they aren’t prepared to wait for their chance then let them go and see you later. If they think opportunities will be easier to come by elsewhere, they are in for a shock. If they’re only motivated by money, they’ll get more of that, in the short term.

And maybe that’s enough for them. Too many players at that age take a short term view. They want the first team football now. If they can’t have that they at least want the money now. But those who back themselves and take the long-term view will reap the long term rewards, and if they want evidence of it they can talk to the Celtic academy players in the team right now; Stephen Welsh, Anthony Ralston, James Forrest and Callum McGregor.

Forrest is about to become the Celtic player with the highest number of honours in our history. He’s a one club footballer, one of the rarest things in all the game. McGregor is the captain, and I think will go on to win more honours at Celtic than Forrest. These guys have it all. They have the money, they have the place in history, they have the respect and adulation of the fans. They have proved that they were worth their deals and all the rest of it.

Ralston and Welsh are now on long term deals; they don’t have to worry for the next four or five years. They are well compensated and at a club where they are taken care of. It’s evidently not for everyone, but none of these guys are selling hats for a living, and they never will be.

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  • Pat says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with this, however, the club, board and managers in recent seasons have been more concenrned on finding gems and projects rather than any intention on developing youth. Imagine your an exciting 16 year old coming through and see the club bring in absolute dress that is going to push them down any pecking order. Is it any wonder some of them will look to move on to another club where they may get a little increase in wages and a chance to play regularly. As you’ve said, too often it doesn’t work out for them and both us and the player are the worse off for it.

    We really need to focus as much on developing our own youth as we do on the projects and gems. It will be a tragedy if we put a team out one day and there are no MacGregors or Forrests on the team sheet.

  • king murdy says:


  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    Another good piece from The Celtic Blog…

    As the old saying goes…

    Good things come to those who wait !

  • brian cavanagh says:

    Hi James

    you make some fair points about Islam Feruz -and clearly agents exploit the dreams of young players for their own pwrsonal gain as a Celtic supporter I have seen it time and time again and whilst Dalgleish, Macari, Nicolas and McClair were great successes, some of the young players especially Liam Miller god rest his soul, and Tony Watt, were innocents i the hand of manipulators. The club needs to be better in how it carries out ‘its duty of care’ to young players under 21 and certainly under 18. Of course they want more money and more glamour, but are we as a club looking after these young mens real interests as opposed to what they agents tell them? I would be interested to know if the younger players have a buddy from a senior player -or that Celtic provide mentors and supports for young players. If they want to go that is fine, I would prefer they made that decision themselves rather than be talked in joining Spurs or any of the top four and discover that you are only going to play mediocre games for B teams or under 21s. I dont think our club protects young players enough- though happy to, stanf corrected

  • Brattbakk says:

    I know every game is a must win and guys have to justify their place but I’d like to see us make more of an effort to give academy players game time. Barcelona regularly play teenagers who are bursting with talent but they still take that chance with them. I just think we could try a wee bit more.

  • Effarr says:

    Shoosh! Be sure not to mention Mikey Johnston, That might put the cat among the pigeons. If they are failures away from Celtic, like Feruz, then they would be failures if they stay: Celtic are not exactly miracle workers. I mean, it`s not so long ago that Darren O`Dea, Stephen McManus, Charlie Mulgrew and Johnny Haynes were were getting hammered for ether being in the job of developing these players or on the verge of getting the job. The agents are no more to blame than some of the parents either. At least Rudi Vata tried to give his son some sound advice.

    In any other business, places like Lennoxtown would be sold off for housing. It would be
    interesting to know how much cash this white elephant drains from Celtic every year with
    virtually no return. It`s an absolute joke that the only names that crop up every time this
    subject is mentioned is Forrest, who is now a pensioner, McGregor, heading into that age group, Welsh and Ralston, on whom I won`t make comment. They would be as well going
    back to junior football like they did in the past, they won a European Cup doing just that.

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