Kenneth Ward wants the SPFL to reduce the number of substitutes allowed in matches, claiming that it is verging on the ridiculous how Celtic make use of the rule.
The Deputy Sports Editor of the Glasgow Times is upset about the way Ange Postecoglou has built up a quality squad that allows the Celtic boss to make changes without reducing the standard of play. Between the 60th and 70th minutes Celtic performances often improve as substitutes come on.
Apparently this is killing off the prospects of younger players coming through from the Celtic Academy although no names are given on the players denied their chance.
The reality is that there is nothing in place to bridge the gap between u-16 football and the Celtic first team. If there were decent prospects coming through being able to use five substitutes from nine would increase their chances of getting first team minutes.
In less than two seasons Postecoglou has completely overhauled Celtic with a squad deep in quality and hopefully ready to progress in Europe.
Two years ago under Neil Lennon Celtic’s only winger was Moi Elyounoussi- on loan from Southampton. James Forrest and Mikey Johnston were injured with play stifled.
Postecoglou works with four wingers involved in every match with Forrest still an option although currently injured. In midfield there are similar options with David Turnbull, Tomoki Iwata and Matt O’Riley featuring and trying to get in the starting XI.
Sharing his frustrations at Celtic’s success this season, Ward explains to Glasgow Times readers:
Take this season as a case in point: Celtic have only dropped five points in 28 games so far – two of those were against Rangers (40 per cent). Their city rivals, meanwhile, have let 14 points slip – five of those against the league champions (over 35 per cent). Reduce the number of times they face off, reduce the points dropped over the course of the season.
As ever, it’s the number that follows the £-sign that really counts, not the number of teams occupying the fixture list. But does Celtic and Rangers raking in Champions League money, which filters down the SPFL pyramid, deliver for the Scottish game, when it’s used to bolster squads already teeming with talent?
One meaningful change that could be made to address the gap, especially to Celtic, is to reduce the number of permitted substitutions back to pre-pandemic levels.
Just look at the Parkhead side’s bench in their most recent Premiership match, the 3-1 victory over Hearts at Celtic Park: Alistair Johnston, Sead Haksabanovic, David Turnbull, Jota, Yuki Kobayashi, Oh Hyeon-gyu, Tomoki Iwata, Scott Bain and Reo Hatate.
The ability to bring five of that contingent on to replenish an already superior side to their opponents is verging on ridiculous. One of them, Haksabanovic, providing the killer third goal against Hearts only illustrates the point.
This squad depth has been a common theme in Postecoglou’s side’s success this term. In their previous league fixture, another comeback victory against St Mirren, three of the substitutes coming on, Liel Abada, Oh and Matt O’Riley, all scored in the 5-1 win.
In the game before that, a 4-0 win over Aberdeen, Abada scored off the bench again. Before that, a 4-1 win at St Johnstone, Turnbull netted after coming on. It’s been a prevalent theme all year.
He concludes with:
A reduction in the opportunities afforded to substitutes through a reduction in the permitted number during a Premiership match would surely see a number leave for more game-time elsewhere. This would force Celtic to look to their academy or to offer top talents from within the league the chance to come and prove themselves at Parkhead – as Taylor has done since joining from Kilmarnock in 2019.
If the SPFL is committed to growth and the development of players capable of reaching the top level, there is one change that can be made easily to benefit the many that will only adversely affect the well-off few. What’s stopping them?
Perhaps if other clubs worked on a scaled down blueprint of what Postecoglou has achieved they might be able to put in better performances.
Tonight clubs from Cyprus, Bulgaria, Sweden and Norway will be playing in the UEFA Conference after qualifying through their groups.
Dundee United and Motherwell had that opportunity after finishing in the top six last season. This weekend, under their third managers of the season they’ll be trying to get away from the relegation zone.
In season 20/21 Celtic won 23 of 38 matches, presumably Ward was much happier with that.