Whilst we await on a managerial announcement, the future of this squad is already being decided…

Much of the discussion around the future of Celtic is centred around who the next permanent manager will be. That is undoubtedly the most pressing piece of business, but what does this mean for the first team squad?

Some of the players have contracts ending in the summer including loanees. Most of the players in such a position, you would expect will leave.

Who manages the team beyond 25th May will have a bearing on some of those futures though Neil Lennon has already made some announcements suggesting he is will be there in the summer. Six players are out of contract in total whilst a further four loanees are set to depart, but some business has been done with more in the pipeline it would seem.

Scott Allan agreed a pre-contract with Hibs earlier this year, Dedryck Boyata has pretty much made his feelings clear that he’ll leave, if last summer is anything to go by, Cristian Gamboa only plays when nobody else can and Dorus de Vries will most likely reach for the pipe and slippers. A question mark remains over two players that Neil Lennon originally signed for Celtic though, should he remain in the job.

Mikael Lustig and Emilio Izaguirre are the two candidates that Lennon could hang onto. He knows both players and would offer cover for another season should he need it.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that this would be my personal preference, but I could see this being done. At the very least I would expect him to keep Lustig whilst Izaguirre’s lack of game time may suggest otherwise.

As for the loanees, well that’s an entirely different situation. Oliver Burke, Timo Weah, Filip Benkovic and Jeremy Toljan could all return to their respective clubs or indeed be snapped up elsewhere.

Burke made an impact upon arrival in an attacking role. He’s scored four goals and managed three assists in sixteen games but has found himself confined to the bench as the season nears an end.

Similarly, Weah was making an impact though also finding himself moved out of the picture. In sixteen appearances he too has scored four goals, but just the one assist.

Both players have demonstrated a reasonable worth despite looking to be phased out with one eye on next season. Of course, that has been largely down to Neil Lennon.

Benkovic has been a stand out player all season, but after missing several games through injury this year he lost his place. Since his return he has made a few appearances, but Lennon appears happy to go with Kristofer Ajer and Jozo Simunovic so long as they are both fit.

There’s a big question mark over whether another loan would be sought with new management at Celtic and Leicester City. Brendan Rodgers was the one to recruit him so he may well be in his plans for next seasons Premier League campaign and I think based on that he won’t be back at Celtic.

As for Toljan, I don’t think I have seen enough evidence in his twelve appearances to warrant a longer deal unless there is more to him than what we have seen already. He looked slow and lethargic at times and I’m not entirely convinced he is any better than the list of right backs already on Celtic’s books.

The rest of the squad is of course under contract and not as likely to leave. There are a couple of players Celtic may cash in on now or cut their losses with completely as they enter the final year of their contracts.

Marvin Compper is probably the prime candidate to be moved on. He survived last summer’s cull, with still with no first team games to show for, since his forgettable 83 minutes over a year ago in the Scottish Cup.

A brief rumour suggested that Neil Lennon was going to throw him into a matchday squad, but I think that was more of a joke than a probability. Celtic should pay the guy off now or strongly advise he finds another club if he has no chance of a game.

Scott Sinclair has never been able to replicate his first season displays, however his stats suggest otherwise. Even with a clear demonstration that he lacked confidence a conviction, he is one of the clubs highest performers.

Season 16/17 – 50 Apps 25 Goals 13 Assists

Season 17/18 – 55 Apps 18 Goals 17 Assists

Season 18/19 – 50 Apps 17 Goals 6 Assists

On the face of it, that is a very good return. I’ve just not been convinced by his displays in games, but Neil Lennon confirmed that this final year was triggered and he will be here for another year.

Nir Bitton‘s agent was in town recently most likely to find out the player’s situation. Bitton was drafted in by Lennon six years ago and has been in and out of the team under the managers that followed.

He spent most of his time under Brendan Rodgers as a makeshift defender. However, Bitton’s chosen role is in the midfield so he’ll be keen to find out what next season holds for him and in which area fo the park, if at all.

Another player who appears to have moved down the pecking order is Craig Gordon. He trained at the club when Lennon was last in charge, but was eventually signed by Ronny Deila.

He has been Celtic’s number one for most of the last five seasons, but following Scott Bain’s arrival last year, the gloves do not appear to be his anymore. It is unlikely that Celtic will cash in on him unless he wishes to move on himself because we could do with a keeper of his calibre to call upon.

Jonny Hayes was brought in two years ago and didn’t quite make an impact. Just as his persistence was beginning to pay off he got injured.

In recent times under both Lennon and Rodgers, he was deployed on the left hand side. I’ve actually been impressed by his tenacity recently and can see him being a decent squad player in the final year of his current contract.

Daniel Arzani has another year left on his loan deal but whether his injury will nullify that agreement remains to be seen. Under the new management it may not be something either club wants.

It’s also worth noting that Celtic have number of players out on loan right now. No fewer than seven players are playing over two continents for the club.

Lewis Morgan is currently down at Sunderland where he’s turned in 19 appearances, scoring 2 goals. It will be interesting to see if he is seen as a player for next season or whether another loan deal will be brokered.

Back in January, Celtic signed Marian Shved from Ukrainian side Karpaty Lviv. He remained there on loan until the end of this season and given his current seasons form, looks like he could make a huge impact next season.

In 25 games he has netted 15 times with 3 assists. That figure will be most welcome in a Celtic jersey.

Meantime in Sweden, forgotten man Kundai Benyu is on loan with Helsingborg. He’s played five times since his move there in February, but he has shown no signs of breaking into the Celtic team.

He has another two years left on his contract, but does he have a future in Glasgow or will Celtic offload him? We may find out this summer.

Youssouf Mulumbu came in last summer with some thinking he would be backup for Scott Brown. After three appearances at the club, he was shipped back to Kilmarnock on loan where he has played seven matches with one goal and one assist to his name.

Is he a midfielder Celtic really need? With one year left on his contract, when his loan expires, I think Celtic may be happy to sell him off.

Calvin Miller has had minimal game time in the Celtic team having been converted from a attacking player to a left back. For a full back I thought he was fairly lightweight, but looked decent going forward and now he has been out on two loan spells.

Whilst at Dundee, he played sixteen times, scored one goal and provided three assists. He played at left back, left-wing and left midfield throughout that six month loan spell.

After that he was farmed out to Championship club Ayr United where he has been utilised in a more attacking sense. He has played up left-wing, right-wing, midfield and centre forward scoring once.

If the young guy does have a future at Celtic, this current loan does not appear to continue his conversion to a defender. With one year on his contract remaining, he will either be back out on loan or the club maybe looking to move him on too.

The last two loanees we are expecting this summer are Manny Perez and Andrew Gutman. Both players are currently over in the USA playing in the USL Championship (second tier of USA football) with North Carolina FC and Charlotte independence respectively.

With one player a left back and the other a right back, Celtic now have new cover for those berths as well as Kieran Tierney, Anthony Ralston and of course if either Lustig or Izaguirre stay. Either way, they look set to arrive in the summer and finally don the Hoops.

So there are a lot of futures to be decided this summer and so far the signs are that Lennon is already having his say. You have to imagine that the job is his even if it hasn’t been decided or announced.

He may well not know at all and the board may be keeping that decision to themselves. However, he is certainly being allowed to decide on the future of guys like Sinclair who is a highly paid player.

The signs of Lennon’s future at the club are beginning to strengthen despite some uninspiring performances by the team. This has already divided the support, but to win over all of the support they will want to see more from Lennon on match days.

He’s said often enough he isn’t playing his way, but the way the team have been for the last three seasons. Now may be the time to start changing things to convince anyone who has doubts about is managerial skills.

Before he left the club in 2014, Ronny Deila was already supposed to be coming aboard in some capacity. I’m not sure what that suggested about Neil’s coaching abilities or if that was more to do with Johan Mjallby deciding to depart.

Whether the board feel Neil requires more coaching support or if he has returned a better manager we will find out soon enough. The season is almost over.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

 

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