In the grand scheme of things, it might not seem to matter that Celtic’s B team have no reserve league to compete in next season. It will not determine the outcome of the league title and will affect Premiership teams equally. The impact of what happens in reserve football are, however, real and long lasting.
For decades, Celtic have dominated Scottish youth leagues, yet the ability to transform players who shine in their age group into first team regulars is woeful. James Forrest, Callum McGregor and the superstar from Wishaw are all we are inclined to talk about since Paul McStay bookended the golden two decades 40 years ago. Compare that to the relative success of Hibs, Aberdeen, United, Motherwell, even Hamilton Accies!
Reasons for failures are usually complex and simplistic explanations by outsiders should come with a Dunning-Kruger health warning, but I know multiple iterations of Celtic coaches have bemoaned the lack of competition our development squads face.
A young David Turnbull at Motherwell would have taken midfield responsibility as his side battled teams of equal or greater ability. The same player at Celtic would play in a team that dominated possession every week and always faced weaker opponents. No one improves their sharpness, industry or skill continually facing weaker opposition.
The consequence of all this is that we can expect our finest talent to wither on the vine more often than grab a pitch-side megaphone unless and until they face better players week-in, week-out.
The perennial ‘Colts team’ proposition now sits with the Scottish Lowland League, which I do not expect is of a great standard, although many of their pitches are better than their SFL counterparts. It is better than nothing and possibly better that a Premiership Reserve league, however, if we want to reverse a 40 year trend, we will need to be far more creative.