Last week, I submitted an article and finished by posing the question, ‘How long can Celtic’s profile survive being in the SPL?’ In a 180 degree turnaround, this week, I’m asking ‘Should we be looking to enter a B team in the SFL?’
It is quite a swing but in the aftermath of Barcelona’s Champions League destruction of Manchester United the merits of a B team seem obvious. Valdes, Puyol, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, and Pedro all played for the youth teams then Barcelona B in either the Spanish 2nd or 3rd division before moving into the first team.
Guardiola, Pepe Reina, Ivan de la Pena, Luis Garcia, Jordi Cruyff, Giovani dos Santos, Thiago Motta, Bojan Krkic, and Jeffren Suarez, a player we are continually linked with, have also played for Barcelona B.
Without this set up, how many of these Champions League winners would have left Barcelona much earlier in their careers and failed to realise their potential? Of course, there is the argument that class will always prove itself but the point is, a B team allows for the extra time that is needed with some players.
Now I’m not suggesting that having a B team will turn us into champions of Europe and lead to a conveyor belt of world beaters at Lennoxtown. However, the loss of the reserve league has made it extremely difficult for young players at Celtic to breakthrough into the first team and has us scrambling all over the world looking for players.
This B team would be the bridge between the under 19’s and the first team and allow the development of players outside the cut-throat, must-win environment of Celtic Park.
Currently bridging that gap is extremely difficult. Aiden McGeady and James Forrest are the most obvious exceptions but take a look at Matty Hughes. He captained our under 19s to a double in May but now finds himself at Fleetwood Town in the Conference.
No doubt Fleetwood Town are just as big, if not bigger, than some SPL clubs but surely a B team would give the likes of Hughes a greater chance to succeed at Celtic and also give Celtic a greater chance of recouping some of the money, time and effort afforded these players.
These days we rely on the loan system but how many players have come back from a loan spell and flourished at Celtic Park? Does anyone really hold out much hope for Darren O’Dea, Paul McGowan, Morten Rasmussen, Ben Hutchison, Josh Thompson, Graham Carey, Richie Towell and the like.