Celtic’s homegrown problem – who’s next after Calmac and Jamesy?

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?

Celtic v Wolves  – Aviva Stadium  Kwon Hyeok-kyu, Saturday July 29, 2023. Photo Brian Lawless

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!

1970 – Kenny Dalglish in action for Celtic

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.

Ben Summers

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.

Rocco Vata –  Photo Vagelis Georgariou

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!”

A young Tommy Burns

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?

Eddie Murray

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About Author

Eddie Murray – I Grew up with the Lions, coming from a Celtic-daft family. Played against Jinky once! Paradise was my second home and Dalglish was my hero. A long term Brisbane Bhoy for many years and have been blogging here for many years. Written a book on Ange/ Brisbane Roar/ Celtic which awaits publication. Writing on other genres as I speak. Top moments? Interviewing Cesar, Wispy, Cairney, The Maestro, Alan Thompson.


  1. The answer is very simple , talented players are being scouted younger than ever ,and are being offered lucrative contracts to leave our academy and join richer clubs , its the same as its always been really ( a food chain ) its just more industrialised and publicized than ever before that’s all , Hail hail .

  2. Thanks Eddie
    I don’t think the ‘old way’ will ever return. Opening up the opportunities for international players to kick a ball in Scotland I suppose has halted the transition from youth team to first team.
    I personally think it’s a shame we have lost that tradition but hopefully we can still keep a few of our young hoops!

  3. Martin Leadbetter on

    An excellent article Eddie and absolutely spot on.
    The B league is a glorified Junior division and we are, as you say, asking the B team to be playing Bo’ness or Cowdenbeath B before playing Lazio or Madrid young teams in the shadow CL tournament. And bear in mind our B Team is currently 10th of 18 teams – 19 points off the leaders – who are currently East Kilbride !! Even the Rangers have binned it. What is the point of us being in it ?
    As for our Academy system, the website boasts that since 2000 there have been 51 who have made the first team – but when you also look at their success stories list nothing after Calmac /Jamsie and listing O Dea, McManus and McGeady – how long ago was that ? Apparently 41 of them have become professionals somewhere !! Presumably that includes all the McGowans, Moffats, McGlincheys , Irvines, Dembeles etc playing in lower leagues. I wonder how much we all pay for a while army of well kitted out Celtic coaches at all the age groups . Then go buy an unknown left back from Argentina or a wonderkid winger – from Australia.
    The pertinent question might be why the entire Celtic Academy and coaching system across Scotland has failed to find a competent left back since Tierney. That said the issue is largely in the laps of the Scottish football administration and its mad system of leagues and associations. Why would a promising youngster hang about our academy getting the odd friendly here and there and maybe occasional promotion into the B team for a crack at Linlithgow Rose ?
    If Brendan Rodgers is looking for talent coming through, and doesn’t see any, then the noble McManus & o Dea and colleagues should be in his office explaining why they and/or others have failed to deliver that – might not even be their fault but someone should be asking. I assume a lot of money goes into developement – according to teh AGM annual report there are 182 players and administration staff employed in the group. The report provides a list of Key Performance Indicators – youth development is not monitored – even though one KPI is player trading – often the lucrative end product of delivering a young p[layer into teh first team and transfer attention.
    As someone asked at the AGM this week surely managers at an organization like Celtic have annual targets to meet or face being marked down or worse. If the answer is that the league set up in Scotland isn’t allowing this progression then a big club like ours – and our pals across the river for another one – should be asking why and pushing through change – assuming they can get past the votes of the chairmen of Alloa, Cove Rangers and the like !