It’s not been very often where we could say that Celtic are enduring a tough season.
Over the last nine years, they have won every single SPFL title on offer. This term, however, they are in diabolical shape with their stronghold on Scottish football under threat.
Rangers are 21 points clear at the top and it’s evident that a major reshuffle is needed.
Neil Lennon’s job is under scrutiny while majority shareholder Dermot Desmond is reportedly planning upheaval behind the scenes.
However, the root of Celtic’s problems this term has been their playing squad. They haven’t been good enough and club captain Scott Brown epitomises that.
The skipper has looked slow and turgid, with an error-stricken display against Sparta Prague in the Europa League summing things up. Back then, he reacted too sluggishly from a corner which in turn, allowed the Czech side to find the net.
His tough-tackling nature will please supporters but he offers little else to Lennon’s side. It appears that the manager has begun to realise this too.
Brown hasn’t started for the Bhoys since the Scottish Cup final victory over Hearts. Ismaila Soro has consequently dislodged him in the XI, but Lennon can axe him from his plans once and for all by bringing through Luca Connell.
With 14 players self-isolating, the midfielder has been on the bench in the last two games but has never made a first-team outing since signing from Bolton.
The 19-year-old is a hot talent, though, and has the abilities necessary to succeed Brown in the middle of the park.
Crucially, he already has senior experience. The teenager played 12 times for Bolton in 2018/19, proving himself to be stern in the challenge – winning 1.9 tackles per game.
Immediately parallels can be drawn with Brown, someone who has made a living from throwing in rough tackles.
Due to those similar attributes, Mark Iles from Bolton News once commented: “He’s probably happier in front of a back four than maybe playing the number ten role but he has done both for Bolton. He likes to put a tackle in which Lenny [Neil Lennon] will love, so he has all the talents to make it.”
Capable of playing as a holding player, it certainly makes sense for Lennon to unleash him at some stage. After all, this is someone who regularly impresses on the training field too.
Former Bolton teammate Remi Matthews stated in 2019: “From day one, he has been sensational. I didn’t really know too much about him really until about two weeks before his debut, because he hadn’t really been training with the first team. Then, all of a sudden, he appeared one day, and you could tell straight away that there was something there.”
Evidently, Connell is someone who could very quickly make the step-up. Senior football seemingly doesn’t faze him and unlike a host of Celtic’s young players, he is already prepared to be thrown in.
His ability to win the ball back is something Lennon cannot ignore in Celtic’s bid to improve. He must consider bringing him through over Brown as having an eye on the future certainly makes sense given how far away from the title the Hoops currently are.