John Hartson has backed Liam Scales as a regular first pick central defender at Celtic alongside Cameron Carter-Vickers, leaving the likes of Maik Nawrocki, Gustav Lagerbielke, Yuki Kobayashi and Stephen Welsh plus Liverpool loanee Nat Phillips, all likely to be frustrated at their route to a place on the Celtic teamsheet being blocked by the Irishman.
There’s no doubt that Scales has in recent weeks taken his chance, impressed the manager and the support and made himself a bone fide first pick for Brendan Rodgers and that has also earned him a place in the Ireland squad.
“He stays in the team, as far as I am concerned,” said Hartson last night on Go Radio. “He has been that good and that impressive at left-side centre-back.
“He’s comfortable on the ball. He can pass it out from the back and take it out from the back by marauding forward. When he plays it wide, he fizzes it wide. A proper passer of the ball. Defends well. Defends his box. Goes and heads it. And he is really comfortable in possession. Doesn’t panic or look like he is under pressure. He has been so impressive. This was a player who was back to Aberdeen at the start of the season.
“For me, I think it’s Carter-Vickers and Scales. You have Lagerbielke and Nat Phillips, who we have brought in from Liverpool. You have Nawrocki and Welsh.
“Other than Brendan making a decison where he wants to bring him out and play one or two of the others. But who is the best fit right now if you are going in against a really tough opposition, then I would go for Carter-Vickers and Scales.”
What’s clear is that the Celtic squad are over-stocked with central defenders and when everyone is fit a few aren’t going to make the bench. There seems little prospect of Yuki Kobayashi breaking into the Celtic team and a loan move or even a transfer back to the J-League might suit all parties in January.
And Nat Phillips is going back to Liverpool as planned in January so while he can provide cover while the injuries clear up, there’s very little chance that Celtic will be looking to make that a permanent move, especially with the impact that Liam Scales has made.
At the weekend Brendan Rodgers, speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, revealed that Scales has shown himself to be the biggest surprise to the Celtic manager in his career so far. Brendan said: “I thought the players were excellent and I think the scoreline didn’t show the quality we had but I am really pleased because we are very creative.
“I think the block of games have been tough but we have come through them very well. We had two Champions Leagues where we competed but did not quite get the results we wanted so it was a case of regrouping because they have that competitive spirit.
“He was outstanding and I am so happy for him. He is probably one of the biggest surprises for me in my career as a coach and only because I had not seen him play so much and there were other players ahead of him.
“Through one leaving and one being injured, I have seen enough in training to give him an opportunity. You ideally want a left-sided centre-back in your team who has good pace and intelligence and he has all of that. You can see in his performances that he has really grown as a player and I am so happy for him because there is a big focus on the Irish players when they come here but he has been outstanding.”
🗣️ ‘He’s probably one of the biggest surprises in my career as a coach’
— BBC Sport Scotland (@BBCSportScot) October 7, 2023
Come and join The Celtic Star live at the Kerrydale Suite at Celtic Park during the International break…
John Hartson will be just one of many special guests at a huge and unique Celtic Star event to be held in the Kerrydale Suite at Celtic Park on Thursday, 19 October 2023. Tables for 10 at £180 or individual tickets priced just £20 for this special evening can be purchased now via Celtic Star Books.
Meanwhile here’s Matt Corr talking about his latest Celtic Star book on The Celtic Exchange Podcast…
Majic, Stan and the King of Japan is out in Friday 20 October and is available to order now HERE.
The Celtic Star presents a night with John Hartson and Stephen McManus at the Kerrydale on Thursday 19 October…
Join The Celtic Star at the Kerrydale on Thursday 19 October when we celebrate the launch of Matt Corr’s new book Majic, Stan and the King of Japan which tells the story of Gordon Strachan’s first season as Celtic manager. We’ll have the trophies that the Celtic team won that season plus well delighted welcome our special guests John Hartson and Stephen McManus, both stars of that Celtic team.
And we have other guests to be announced later this week plus there’s live music from the wonderful Boolavogue. Tickets are selling fast for what is sure to be a wonderful night of Celtic conversation and music and you can order below…