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Celtic can unearth McGregor heir in Daniel Kelly

One notable benefit of this current halt to action for Celtic is the chance to allow captain Callum McGregor to ease his way back to fitness, with the Scotland international an asset whom manager Ange Postecoglou will likely be keen to get back into the side.

The 29-year-old – who has been out with a knee injury since the Champions League defeat away to RB Leipzig back in October – has been a crucial cog in the Parkhead machine for a number of years now, having risen up through the youth ranks before establishing himself a central figure in the first-team.

The 49-cap sensation – who made his debut for the Hoops back in 2014 – has enjoyed a glittering career in Glasgow at the heart of the midfield, winning seven Scottish Premiership titles as well as a host of other major honours.

Alongside teammate James Forrest, the former Notts County loanee has been one of the major success stories of the club’s academy system in recent times, having now scored 58 goals and registered 68 assists in 389 games in all competitions for the Old Firm giants.

The £32k-per-week man has proven particularly impressive over the past year or so under Postecoglou’s tutelage, having been a real standout presence after being converted into more of a defensive-minded, ball-playing asset in front of the back four.

Such has been his impact of late, McGregor has notably been lauded as a “massive influence” and also someone who is simply “irreplaceable” in the side by former Rangers man Barry Ferguson, with it perhaps hard to imagine just who will fill the void when he does start to fade over the coming years.

There has been talk of a new midfield addition in January as the Bhoys look to strengthen in the centre of the park, although Postecoglou may well be better served promoting from within in order to find a suitable solution as well as a possible long-term heir to his current skipper.

An ideal candidate for that role could well be young starlet Daniel Kelly, with the 17-year-old midfielder having been making waves as a result of his displays in the youth set-up of late, having featured in all six UEFA Youth League games for the club this season.

While yet to feature at first-team level, the teenager has also made seven outing’s for Celtic’s ‘B’ team in the 2022/23 campaign thus far, notably impressing in a recent Challenge Cup clash against Dunfermline.

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That meeting saw the exciting Scotsman lauded by opposition boss James McPake for his role at the heart of the midfield, stating: “You come up against a CDM or a No 6 that role, the deep-lying midfielder, Daniel Kelly is the best about at that age that boy for Celtic, I’ve seen him a few times. He’s so assured.”

Such a talent has ensured that the emerging dynamo is “very highly rated” – in the words of Hoops podcaster Ryan McGinley – with the Scottish champions having had to fend off notable interest in the player from the Premier League before securing a new deal earlier this year.

While a shot at life in the senior set-up may still be some way off, the hope will be that Kelly can eventually fill the shoes of compatriot McGregor in the long term, with Celtic certainly having a player of real potential on their hands.