Who Stole The Parkhead Diamonds?…
When the newly emerging, but promising names, McGrain, Hay, Connolly, Davidson, Macari and Dalglish were announced over the Celtic Park tannoy, the fans bristled with expectation, nudged each other and excited chatter permeated the grand old stadium.
The new bhoys were a product of the then, reserve team under the watchful eye of the master, Stein, his demanding gemfinder-in-chief, Sean Fallon and the insightful Sargeant-Major of Barrowfield, Neilly Mochan. Those youths were legends in the making, and the faithful who followed the young team were at pains to point out their rare qualities, hence, The Quality Street Kids.
Those home-grown names went on to become household ones, both at home, and abroad in European tournaments, and on the international scene. The late 60s and 70s promised so much and delivered something we’ve never seen since from a development perspective.
So, what’s happened since then? Well, the game has also developed, and not necessarily for the better. Some of the names on the team-sheet around the Celtic Way are more likely to have us calling a linguist, rather than our mates for clarity!
That’s not a slight on Siegrist, Kyogo, Kwon, Maeda, Hatate, Lagerbielke, Nawrocki or Oh, just a commentary on the recruitment strategy adopted in 2023. These guys are excellent players, but where are our own home-grown Celtic stars?
From a bloated and inflated squad we have little success in the Scots ranks; Bain (a reserve at best), Taylor,(Kilmarnock purchase), Ralston (home grown and mainly still a reserve), Welsh (still to make a regular breakthrough,) Turnbull (Motherwell purchase and a decent though inconsistent bench player), Mikey (homegrown, but flatters to deceive), Calmac, (now, THAT’s a homegrown gem!) and the end-of-the-line, Forrest (a vastly underrated, but waning star who mainly starts from the bench).
Two! Two players who can genuinely boast a decent career at Celtic, with one about to enter a well-earned retirement village. When the majority of those names are read out pre-match, how many fans get off their seats to debate and enthuse? Not many, Benny!
So, the question is, who stole our gems? Where are the Kennys, Dannys or Lou Macaris? Why has our development stagnated to the point that we seek a twice-weekly buzz from Asian, Polish, Korean or Honduran imports? Again, absolutely no disrespect to these grand entertainers in Hoops, we love them and what they bring to Paradise, but why are we not seeing a regular, or even a semi-regular influx of ‘reserves’ champing at the bit for a first team berth?
Has the game changed so much that our Scots lads are now so inferior to players abroad? However, look at their chances; from playing away to Civil Service Strollers or Caledonian Braves in the Lowland league, to competing against Antoine Griezmann, (Atletico), Ciro Immobile, (Lazio), or Alireza Jahanbakhsh, (Feyenoord) in the European Champions League. That’s how far removed these Bhoys are from the reality of promotion.
The league and cups which are, not much sought after, but demanded by the support, require top-class performers every single week, so unless the youngsters are blooded in a semi-regular fashion, they have no chance of emerging into the multicultural talent pool at Brendan Rodgers’ disposal.
There’s a severe lack of opportunity for the young, but why is it that the Rocco Vatas, or Ben Summers’ (currently away on loan,) of this world are not trusted with opportunities away from the tutelage of Darren O’Dea? We are bleeding future diamonds on a regular basis; take the effervescent Ben Doak at Liverpool as an example.
I don’t have the answers, but I remember my Dad coming home from a reserve game once in the early 70s, buzzing with excitement.
“Did we win, Dad?”
“Aye son, we won, but watch out for this wee red-headed boy who is going to be a star in the first team very soon. He is some player!”
That player was the late, great Tommy Burns, and we all know how that turned out. We may or may not have another Tommy, or Kenny in our youthful ranks today, but unless they are elevated from Lowland to Paradise and given a reasonable run without being freed or sold off to the highest bidder, we’ll never know!
The game has developed so much since the days of the Quality Street Gang, except when you look at reserve league football, or B Team as it’s now called. When we have no Forrest, then no McGregor will be start to have this discussion or is that the time now?