When Armstrong Okoflex arrived at Celtic in the summer of 2018, he had one clear goal – to play first-team football by the time he was 17.
Upon signing terms for the Hoops he was only 16 but nearly two years have now passed since he moved from Arsenal. Disappointingly, the aim he set out to achieve hasn’t been fulfilled.
Now 18, he is yet to play a senior match for Celtic after being brought to the club by former manager Brendan Rodgers.
The Northern Irishman enjoyed a wonderfully successful spell at Parkhead, winning multiple league titles but once he departed, it was another promising teenager getting his chance instead.
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That fell at the feet of the diminutive Karamoko Dembele who made his senior debut towards the back end of the 2018/19 campaign. He has made two appearances since and despite being a year younger than Okoflex, he is the one that’s shown the most promise.
It’s hardly surprising given he played U20 football at the age of 13. He is a generational talent and it’ll take a lot to surpass the tricky winger.
However, Okoflex does have the necessary qualities in his locker. You don’t get snapped up by Arsenal and Rodgers, a manager known for progressing and spotting young talent, for no reason.
He arrived inspired by the now Leicester boss and the way he developed the game of Raheem Sterling – a star now rated at £144m according to Transfermarkt. It would be quite something if he reached those dizzy heights in the years to come but the fact he has such lofty ambitions is encouraging.
He commented in September 2018: “The manager told me about Raheem Sterling, how he was a young teenager at Liverpool and then he brought him up in pre-season and, because he was doing well and better than the older wingers at the club, he played him in the league games. It shows he’ll play young players and that’s encouraging for me.”
Perhaps the worst thing for Okoflex, therefore, is the fact that Rodgers left and Neil Lennon arrived.
Although he’s handed chances to Dembele, there has been a lack of action for those coming through the academy – Okoflex is one of the biggest victims of that.
Whether the teenager would have earned it under Rodgers is unclear but there was clearly something brewing when he signed:
“I had a meeting with Brendan Rodgers and he was very convincing. He’s a great manager with all the success he’s had at previous clubs and at Celtic, and he was one of the big factors in coming here,” he said.
Celtic is a club built on huge success so opportunities will probably be few and far between. Though, Dembele acts a reminder that it is possible. He needs to follow his team mate’s example.