One of Celtic’s goals for the future should be to hand regular first-team opportunities to the younger players coming through at Lennoxtown.
The Hoops have begun to give them a better platform in the closing weeks of the season but there is still a long way to go before young players view Paradise as a place to rise through the ranks.
There have been exceptions at Parkhead in years gone by with young individuals like Kristoffer Ajer and Kieran Tierney make the breakthrough.
However, under Neil Lennon, he didn’t really give a second look at the reserve team.
Cameron Harper decided his future was elsewhere as he headed back to America while Armstrong Oko-Flex could have easily departed too.
Yet, there are now more positive signs. Karamoko Dembele has scored his first senior goal for Celtic and will be staying at the club this summer with his deal not expiring until 2022.
Many will be hoping to follow in his footsteps next term from Luca Connell who won League 2 with Queen’s Park to Leo Hjelde, a young defender compared to Virgil van Dijk.
One of their brightest prospects, though, is Adam Montgomery.
Transformed from a striker to a left-back, he’s made his first-team breakthrough in recent weeks, starting against St Johnstone in the 4-0 win and then appearing as a substitute on the final day against Hibernian.
Compared to Tierney by John Kennedy, the 18-year-old looks ready to be given a full-time role at senior level next season. By doing so, Dominic McKay could save the club millions.
That’s because they’re targeting the addition of Bologna full-back Aaron Hickey. Once of Celtic, he left for Hearts and then made the brave jump to Serie A last summer.
He’s developed nicely but instead of bringing one of their ex-players back, they’d be better off investing their time in the development of Montgomery.
Hickey might be more experienced at senior level but they possess similar traits, meaning Celtic could save money to invest in other more important areas of the team.
Speaking about Montgomery after his senior debut, Kennedy commented: “Adam was unfortunate not to play before now. He has been around the first team for the last five or six months training.”
The interim boss added: “He is similar to Kieran [Tierney] in a way. With young players we bring them up to train and after a week or two he made an impression and we could see he could handle it.
“You just see they are good to go – and he was. It’s a great start for him, we have high hopes for him for the future.”
Montgomery showed on his first start that he’s one to watch heading into next season.
The youngster completed 90% of his passes and also won three tackles, demonstrating competency in defence and attack.
It’s been a strange journey for the 18-year-old, but one he’s relished: “When [changing position] was first to put me, I was a bit ‘ahh’. I am a tricky winger normally, I like beating players and getting at people, he said.
“The way Celtic play full-backs is very attacking so going back to full-back, it hasn’t been a massive difference for me. I’m really enjoying it,” Montgomery concluded.
Starting out as a striker in the reserve team, he’s had to learn the ropes defensively but already looks rather accomplished in that area.
That’s more than can be said for the erratic Diego Laxalt, a defender who was at fault considerably during his final few weeks in Glasgow.
Whoever the new manager is, they need to ensure he has a route to first-team starts next season. Signing Hickey would not allow that to happen.