It is better to win trophies at youth level than to miss out, so I was happy to see Celtic Youths beat their Newco equivalents 3-2 in the Glasgow Cup last night, six days after losing the Scottish Youth Cup to the same score and opponents.
Those who pulled on the hoops last night are the pinnacle of years of development. Each May, their number was whittled down. To get to this point, they have to be exceptional young players. The harsh reality is, that if two or more of them have successful careers in the first team, this will be an outstandingly successful generation.
Jack Aitchison, who opened the scoring last night, has made only two appearances in the three years since he became Celtic’s youngest player and goal scorer. At 16 years and 71 days he was well ahead in the developmental curve. At 19, Jack is the age Odsonne Edouard was when he arrived at Celtic. He needs to be playing first team football soon.
On Sunday, Karamoko Dembele will be the age Jack Aitchison was when he made his Celtic debut. Like you, I am desperate to see Karamoko, but I would rather see him playing week-in, week-out, three years from now, than expose him to too much, to soon.
I doubt Ronny Delia did any damage to Jack Aitchison by giving him a debut against Motherwell in 2016. Similarly, Neil Lennon may be of a mind to play Karamoko before the end of the season. As well as looking after the player’s development, Neil has to convince him and his family that Celtic is where he will develop best.
A debut helps achieve the latter, but the science of turning prodigious Celtic youths into first team regulars is still in its infancy.