“It was a proper test,” Darren O’Dea on Celtic B team playing Blackburn Rovers

If ever you needed an example of why progress and performance is more important than the end result for youth players coming through the ranks at Celtic, you only have to look to Celtic B’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Blackburn Rovers, a result which ultimately saw the young Hoops exit the Premier League International Cup at the County Ground in Leyton.

Celtic’s bare results showed a solitary win, two defeats and a draw in the competition. And although that saw the young Celts unable to progress to the Quarter final stage, for coaches Darren O’Dea and Stephen McManus – as reported on the club’s official website – there were plenty of positives to take from a game where Mackenzie Carse’s late consolation wasn’t all that Celts achieved, they also gained real respect for their efforts from the coaching staff.

U21, U 21 Blackburn Rovers v Celtic U21 Premier League Cup 01/02/2023. Photo Craig Galloway PSI

“I was really pleased with the overall challenge of the game,” Darren O’Dea said. “We were delighted with the composure of the boys and the way they stuck to the task – it was a proper test. They had a number of first-team players in their side. Which, for our players who are trying to make their way into first-team football, it was a brilliant test.”

U21, U 21 Blackburn Rovers v Celtic U21 Premier League Cup 01/02/2023. Photo Craig Galloway PSI

Celtic’s young talent will have learned a great deal from playing against older and more experienced players, arguably a lot more than the domestic environment of the Lowland League – and performances against such sides will arguably be those Ange Postecoglou will pay the closest attention too.

The Celtic manager recently outlined a vision to have a pathway for some of these youngsters to break through into the first team squad, something that has been a bone of contention amongst some, who argue the club could have previously done much more to outline a future at Celtic was possible when clubs down south and overseas came poaching the best of Celtic’s Academy graduates.

U21, U 21 Blackburn Rovers v Celtic U21 Premier League Cup 01/02/2023. Photo Craig Galloway PSI

And you get the impression, having played first team football and being aware of the demands required at that level, that O’Dea and McManus don’t hand out praise unless it is fully deserved. As such can we expect to see Ben Summers – one player O’Dea was keen to highlight as the best player on the park – as the next to make a first team appearance?

U21, U 21 Blackburn Rovers v Celtic U21 Premier League Cup 01/02/2023. Photo Craig Galloway PSI

“It was probably the most content myself and Stephen have been on the touchline,” O’Dea explained. “Because if we liken it to a first-team game, that was probably as close to that as we’ve had this year. There was a good crowd, great atmosphere and a number of Celtic fans that travelled down which is massively appreciated.

“As a coach, part of our job is to find the right environments and experiences for them to learn in and last night was the perfect environment. It was a really tough physical game with loads of quality on show and our players stood up to it brilliantly. There were stand out performances but Ben Summers was arguably the best player on the pitch.”


Ben Summers will certainly have done his case no harm with such a performance against Blackburn Rovers. And the attacker, who alongside his International Cup games, has made six UEFA Youth League appearances and two in the Challenge Cup on top of his Lowland League bread and butter, is certainly picking up experience against the kind of opposition he could expect to face in the Scottish Premiership.

Having signed an extension in September last year, Summers is now contracted to Celtic until 2025, so Celtic and the player are clearly on the same page regarding the player’s ongoing development at Celtic.

RB Leipzig U19 Glasgow U19 05 10 2022 Leipzig, 05 10 2022, RBL Trainingszentrum am Cottaweg, Football, 2022 2023 season, U19 Juniors, UEFA Youth League, Group Stage , RB Leipzig U19 Celtic Glasgow U19 , Pictured f l Ben Summers 53, Celtic and Ohene Köhl Koehl 9, RB Leipzig ,

After such fulsome praise from his B-Team boss, it may only be a matter of time before a chance is offered at first team level. If it comes, Summers will know it’s been a well-earned promotion.

Niall J

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As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

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