SPL

Celtic Right To Target Scottish Youth

 • by Stefan Bienkowski
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Dundee held in for a fight, but in the end the succumbed to Celtic’s demands and sold Jack Hendry to the Glasgow giants.

The 22-year old had been courted by a number of clubs, yet it’s Celtic who led the way for his signature.

The club’s manager and former Rangers star, Neil McCann, had earlier struggled to hide his delight when he noted that the club had set a high price for their pivotal defender.  “We haven’t had anything that has turned our heads whatsoever in terms of bids,” said McCann. “They (Celtic) have shown an interest but there’s not been anything (bids) there.”

However, beating the clock to the stroke of midnight, Celtic’s reported bid of £1million got the deal over the line.

Although the Scottish champions have a number of central defenders on their roster at the moment, there are no exceptional candidates or indeed potential talents to pick from – aside from Kristoffer Ajer.

The Norwegian defender has slowly but surely commanded the attention of his coach and will undoubtedly play a much bigger part in Celtic’s remaining campaign. Hendry, just three years his senior, could be a fascinating long-term partner to seal a central partnership for the club to build upon for years to come.

Of course this deal offers some short-term benefits too. With a nasty injury to recently-signed Marvin Compper and the departure of Erik Sviatchenko, Celtic are back to just three central defenders for the foreseeable future. 

Yet, Hendry’s signing confirms a larger trend of Celtic looking towards the numerous, young talents that have sprouted up in the Scottish Premiership in recent years and opting to cherry pick them rather than more expensive and riskier options from abroad.

The most recent example to this trend is of course Lewis Morgan. Celtic signed the St Mirren forward just one week ago and will surely look forward to bringing the 21-year old to Glasgow at the end of the season.

Morgan, who has shown an outstanding ability to score with either feet, has notched up no less than 12 goals and eight assists for his Championship side and could potentially prove to be an apt long-term replacement for either Scott Sinclair or Moussa Dembélé when they eventually leave the club.

However, it’s Celtic’s decision to allow the fledgling talent to stay on at St Mirren that offers the real insight to this relatively new approach to buying and developing young players.

Where the club once used to sing young players from around Celtic and either throw them in their youth teams or park them on their bench, Rodgers & Co. are now buying them but allowing their talents to progress at the club they’re already a part of or something similar.

Morgan will join Ryan Christie in this regard; a young attacking midfielder that Celtic plucked from Inverness Caledonian Thistle and duly allowed to finish his season at the club, before ultimately sending him on loan to Aberdeen.

Christie impressed Derek McInnes and Dons fans in his first season, with eight goals and four assists but it has been in this current campaign – his second consecutive one with the Pittodrie side – that we’ve seen him notch up no less than five goals and eight assists in just  25 games.

There’s a good chance that the 22-year old will finish the season with double figures in both regards and be awarded the title of young player of the year, before returning to Celtic to take up a place in their first team.

This model hasn’t just been applied to players signed from other clubs. Both Liam Henderson and Dylan McGeouch found themselves at the heart and centre of teams like Rosenborg, Coventry City and Hibernian instead of wasting away in Celtic’s youth team and although neither ended up making the grade at Parkhead there’s no denying that the model worked wonders in turning them both in to the impressive, young players that they are today.

The concept of the biggest club in any particular division hoovering up the young talents from around the league is no contemporary idea, but the manner in which Celtic have done so and then shown the intelligence to identify other clubs that can develop said talents is an impressive feat.

Like Chelsea, the Scottish champions have began a conveyor belt of carefully acquired and then assembled young players that will either go on to play for the first team and help the club win trophies or indeed move on for notable fees. Christie and Morgan are the most recent examples, but Hendry may prove to be the next addition. Celtic are investing in young, Scottish talents and it makes perfect sense.

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