Celtic Football Club have an excellent Youth Academy. In recent seasons we have seen the likes of Kieran Tierney, Mikey Johnston, Karamoko Dembele, Stephen Welsh and Ewan Henderson all come through the ranks. Those players add to slightly older Academy graduates such as James Forrest, Callum McGregor and Anthony Ralston. However, there is a concerning trend among young players, who are beginning to leave Celtic to join the richest clubs outside of Scotland before reaching senior football.
Barry Hepburn and Liam Morrison are two prime examples of youngsters departing the club before making a competitive first team appearance. The pair recently swapped Lennoxtown for the Bayern Munich youth team, and the latter has now spoken about the thinking behind his decision.
Posting on the Rising Ballers Instagram page, Liam Morrison said: “My journey so far has been great. There’s been a lot of ups and downs; being at Celtic and in with the first-team during pre-season and then signing for Bayern.
“I played some games with Bayern (youth team) but unfortunately got injuries that caused me not to play. Leaving Celtic (at the age of 16) was a difficult decision but when a team like Bayern Munich are offering to sign you it’s very hard to turn down. They had the right pathway for me, so that was the decision I made.
“Moving to Germany from Scotland was very tough from the beginning, moving away from my family at such a young age and going to a country where the main language isn’t English. It was difficult, but once I got there, there were a few English and American boys.”
Morrison’s comments potentially outline a key area for Celtic to address if they are to ensure that other young talents don’t follow him out the exit door. Perhaps it is time for the club to plot a clear pathway for youngsters to break into the first team and to communicate the details of that pathway with youth players.
As recent as last week, Leeds United were heavily linked with a bid for Celtic’s U18s teenage sensation Matthew Anderson. Touted as the next Kieran Tierney, the Hoops can ill afford to lose a quality player after scouting his talent and nurturing him through the ranks. Thus, with no sign of richer clubs relenting in their pursuit of Celtic’s Academy prospects, the Hoops must learn from the disappointments of players like Morrison departing. If other clubs having “the right pathway” is indeed the main reason behind his transfer, then Celtic need to act to prevent history repeating itself.