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The Albion Rovers connection

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Celtic’s u-19 side travel to Coatbridge today to face Albion Rovers in the Jock Stein Friendship Trophy.

The fixture was established in 2006 and provides an interesting real life diversion for the young Celts.

Youth team football can sometimes feel a bit detached and remote- played out in a mainly training ground environment.

This afternoon’s match will see Stevie Frail’s players up against older time-served professionals who’ve done the rounds in the lower leagues and don’t fancy getting the runaround from some bright eyed wonderbhoy.

So far this season the Celtic kids have looked noticably superior to the Scottish oppostion that they have encountered with two convincing 8-0 and 3-0 results.

Pre-season was mainly spent playing against English opposition such as Wigan, Everton, Liverpool and Preston with the Eurofoot Cup in Belgium in July providing some continental opposition including Mexican side Botafogo who won the tournament despite losing to Celtic in the group stage.

Returning to Cliftonhill should prove memorable for Matty Hughes who played in the 2008 fixture on the day that he signed for Celtic from Rochdale, the Celtic side that night included Thomas Gravesen and Derek Riordan who were far from Gordon Strachan’s first team plans.

The first tie between the clubs was in 2006 when a gangly kid from Ireland scored two goals to mark his arrival at Celtic, yesterday Cillian Sheridan was on the bench for Ireland in their 1-0 win away to Armenia.

The following season was less eventful with a penalty shoot-out deciding the trophy in Celtic’s favour with John McStay, son of Celtic coach Willie, one of the Rovers sinners from the spot.

Anyone going along today is likely to see some names that will soon be featuring in the Celtic first team in the next couple of seasons.

Catching the eye so far this season has been Callum McGregor who prefers to play out wide but can be equally effective in central midfield or playing behind a main striker.

James Keatings has helped himself to six of the eleven goals that Celtic have scored this season and like McGregor can play in a couple of forward positions.

In midfield Callum Bagshaw and Jordan Lowdon have combined well, providing the grit and determination required for that position with an ability to pick out a killer pass and also to make damaging runs at opposing defenders.

As a special treat today’s match kicks-off at the unusual time of 3pm, it’s pay at the gate with standing permitted!

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