Celtic were a joy to watch last night. Ahead of the match, I wrote an article for The Celtic Star saying that I just wanted to enjoy a game of football again. I got my wish.
Beyond that impressive performance and result, we got an unexpected bit of hope for a new direction to turn the corner and kickstart our campaign. What a difference it made to play younger, fringe, yet quality players. Their energy and hunger shone through, resulting in the defeat of a very strong European outfit.
Fans have been calling for David Turnbull to get a chance for months, whilst many have suggested that Soro gets a game too. The fact that it took Neil Lennon until mid-December to do this is ridiculous, but let’s focus on the positives. The pair were energetic, enthusiastic and absolutely outstanding. These aren’t youth prospects, Soro is 22 years old and Turnbull is already proven having scored 17 goals from midfield for Motherwell last season.
I was also impressed by Henderson. He is a player that I have always rated and if memory serves me correct he was man of the match in Brendan Rodgers’ last game in charge, after which he hadn’t made another Celtic appearance before last night. In an unfamiliar right hand side position, he looked comfortable. Similarly, another product of the academy, Conor Hazard, did well in goals. Hazard did his job well but also bossed the defence and wasn’t afraid to let his voice be heard. That has been lacking from Barkas and Bain, so perhaps his organisation could be valuable to a shaky defence.
The spark that Celtic have been looking for appears to have been under Neil Lennon’s nose the whole time. For me, he has to stick with the bulk of that young, energetic team to go on a run. The old guard have gone stale, many wantaway and they have not merited a return to the side ahead of those who performed so well last night.
I woke up this morning with a bit of cautious optimism. We will know if there is a change of era when Lennon names his team on Sunday. My biggest fear is a return to Christie and Brown, introducing the same stale players, one of whom reportedly wants to leave. Soro and Turnbull must start for me and, if Frimpong is not fit, then Ajer should be deployed at right back, where he is very effective. Henderson deserves to stay in the team out wide and only Klimala could be replaced by Edouard due to his lack of quality, despite working hard.
Jock Stein famously phased out the Lisbon Lions to bring through the Quality Street Gang. He did so to avoid things getting stale when an incredible team achieved greatness, then his new team reached another European Cup Final. This Celtic side is the second most successful after the Lions and perhaps it’s time to follow in Stein’s footsteps by bringing through the younger fringe players to revive this season and herald a new era of success.