On the face of it, Lewis Morgan looks like just another Celtic transfer signing. The Glasgow giants have always made a habit of trying to hoover up the best talent around Scottish football and in January when St Mirren confirmed that their 21-year-old prodigy had agreed terms with the Scottish champions it was met with a collective shrug of the shoulders.
That’s just how things work north of the border.
However, while Morgan may spend this summer gawking at the size of his new surroundings and doing his best to ignore transfer rumours linking him with loan moves to numerous clubs the length and breadth of the country, there’s some reason to suggest that the Greenock may be featuring in Brendan Rodgers’ plans far sooner than either he or most of the Celtic Park faithful had anticipated.
That’s because Celtic don’t really have a tied-down, bullet-proof solution to their left wing spot just yet. And although there are a number of players that can play in the position for Rodgers next season there’s no clear outlier and certainly, no one that Morgan can’t jostle with for valuable game time.
At this moment in time Scott Sinclair is the high-profile option for the role. However, despite his reputation and impressive stats last season there’s no denying that the English forward regressed terribly last season. In all competitions for Rodgers’ side,
Sinclair went from averaging 0.58 goals per game in the 2016/17 season down to 0.4. And in that same period his assists dropped from 0.25 per game to just 0.14. Although last season’s stats are by no means poor, they still show a disturbing drop off from the player’s own high standards.
Indeed, this is why Rodgers ultimately began looking for new options in the second half of last season. Sinclair may have been an ever-present figure in Celtic’s Champions League qualifying campaign and the proceeding group stages, but by the time Celtic got around to facing Zenit St Petersburg in the Europa League in January, the senior forward had been dropped to the bench.
Similarly, Sinclair started in the first two Old Firm derbies of last season but found himself coming on as a sub or completely unused at all in the three that came about after the turn of the year. Rodgers simply couldn’t rely upon him in big games like he had done before.
As such, Rodgers approaches the new season with a large question mark over the position. With Patrick Roberts returning to Manchester City, the Celtic manager could instead turn to Edouard, who has played on the left a number of times for the club.
However, spending a club record on a striker and then converting him into a left winger may not be what fans or indeed Rodgers’ board had envisaged for the French youngster. The Celtic manager could turn to the returning Ryan Christie or Jonny Hayes, but both former Aberdeen forwards are far better suited to the right wing and neither have at all suggested that they’re ready to step up to a regular, first-team role.
Indeed, within the context of Celtic’ current squad, Morgan stands out as the only genuine alternative to the diminishing Sinclair on the left. And when we consider the young forward’s talents there’s no reason why he can’t step into the role and truly thrive.
Last season Morgan averaged 0.38 goals and 0.16 assists per match for St Mirren and as the creative spark to Jack Ross’ all-conquering side the former Rangers youth product dazzled teams with his superb ability to dribble past opponents to then cut inside and either score or create chances for his teammates.
In a similar fashion to Sinclair, Moran is essentially an inside forward that uses his pace and skill to score goals. And as such could quite easily slot into the role already defined by his older teammate.
Some Celtic fans would have reservations about a Championship player slotting straight into their side, but Morgan’s ability score with relative ease at that level suggests that he was already prepared for Premiership football long before he signed on the dotted line for the Scottish champions.
And as shown in recent performances for the Scotland national team against Peru in May, he doesn’t let a leap in quality or pressure affect his composure.
In Rodgers, Celtic also have a coach that truly thrives in promoting and developing young players. In this current Celtic team alone his work is evident in the regular, outstanding performances of players like Kieran Tierney, Callum McGregor and Kristoffer Ajer. Each of these players has taken to first-team football in Glasgow like a duck to water and fans should expect Morgan to do the same under Rodgers’ guidance.
This young, untested talent from St Mirren may be something of a risk right now, but in 12 months time, we may be singing Morgan’s praises as the latest in Celtic’s impressive conveyor belt of young stars.