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  • Half-term Reserve Team Report

    Half-term Reserve Team Report

    By: Joe Donnelly on 08 Jan, 2019 14:01

  • This article was originally published in the Celtic View on December 5, 2018. For more quality articles, exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes team news, you can subscribe here.

    From the Quality Street Gang of the late 1960s, to today’s crop of first-team Youth Academy graduates, Celtic’s record for developing players is unrivalled. In 2019, Tommy McIntyre celebrates a decade in charge of the club’s Professional Academy, and he reckons the current pool of fledgling stars boasts some of hardest-working talent he’s ever worked with.

    Following this season’s re-structure, the SPFL Reserve League pares back the fixture overload of previous campaigns, and McIntyre admits this, combined with international breaks, has somewhat offset momentum. Nevertheless, the Reserves coach has been delighted with his squad’s application – both domestically and on the world stage.

    An impressive six Celtic Academy players – Stephen Welsh, Robbie Deas, Daniel Church, Kerr McInroy, Jack Aitchison and Ryan Mullen – started in Scotland’s 2-1 UEFA European qualifier win over Wales back in November, Barry Coffey captained the Republic of Ireland Under-18 squad and scored in their 2-1 win over Belgium on the same day, and the ever-impressive Armstrong Okoflex represents England at Under-16 level.  

    At home, the Reserves enjoyed a good run of form, and recently followed a comprehensive 6-0 victory over Partick Thistle in the Glasgow Cup, with an equally emphatic 4-0 league win over Queen of the South. All of which reflects the hard work of McIntyre and his staff behind the scenes. 

    “We’ve got young Armstrong at England, Barry Coffey playing for the Republic of Ireland Under-18s and stepping up to the Under-19s, and we’ve got the six boys who represented Scotland in one game,” Tommy McIntyre told the Celtic View. “That’s a phenomenal ratio, and is something that’s particularly exciting for us.”

    “I know Billy Stark very well, but the fact that he can trust us and our players is an indication for me that we’re doing the right thing as well. That’s a great reflection on the Academy, the fact that there’s so many good, young internationalists representing their respective nations.”

    The players not on international duty are presented with a different, but equally inspiring, opportunity – training with the first team. McIntyre and his staff are always keen to instil Celtic’s winning mentality in their players, but the mental, physical and technical development of reserve players is vital to the process.

    “These guys want to play,” said McIntyre. “They want to train, they train really well and I’ve been absolutely delighted with the way they’ve applied themselves – in terms of adhering to our philosophy and our playing style.

    “They’ve risen to every challenge we’ve given them, and there’s no doubt they’re a talented bunch. But it’s not all about talent, there are a lot of other factors involved, and they want to play games. We play Partick Thistle in the league on January 28, which will be our first competitive game back."

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    Home-grown players such as Callum McGregor, James Forrest and Kieran Tierney typify the drive and hard work required to succeed at the highest level, and rubbing shoulders with the Youth Academy alumni day-to-day at the club’s Lennoxtown training facility marks the perfect in-person inspiration for reserve players.

    McIntyre continued: “You can talk to your heart’s content about players coming through, but why not just show them – here it is, there they are, they’ve come through the academy. A picture paints a thousand words.

    “I remember the likes of Kieran Tierney, Callum McGregor, James Forrest coming through, because I was involved with every one of them. At younger ages, you might not have thought they were top talent to come through, but they had that determination, mentality and, obviously, the talent to push through.

    “As far as role models are concerned, you don’t get any better than that. Look at Callum McGregor now, everyone is talking about him. And KT is just, well, he’s just KT! He’s so, so driven.

    “We have great role models that have come through the Academy, and there’s a clear pathway and you can see that. At some clubs, they don’t have that clear pathway. Some big clubs don’t have that clear pathway, but there’s definitely a clear pathway at Celtic. You can just see it, and it just vibrates throughout the whole of the club.”

    As the team reached the halfway point of the season, McIntyre is keen to consolidate the progress they’ve made so far, and to play positive, disciplined football. He also can’t speak highly enough of Brendan Rodgers and his positive attitude towards growing talent from a young age.

    “We’ve got a fantastic manager who has got a real belief in the system, and a real belief in youth,” he said. “He’s got a real understanding of what it takes going from the Academy all the way through to the first team, he’s been there, he’s been a coach at a young age group and has worked all the way through. In terms of giving young players advice, and giving them examples to look up to, and I don’t think we could have anybody better.

    “I think the young boys mix well with the first-team players, and I think the first team players accept them, providing they’re there to work hard, like everyone else. They’re role models the young players, and I’ve never been anywhere else where it’s as connected as it is here. There’s a whole strength that’s felt about the club. Any young player, particularly from the reserves, you’ll never get a better chance, nor a better club to grow and develop.

    “If the moment comes where they get their chance to play, we hope that our input has helped them develop enough to reach that level. Our main aim is always getting as many players knocking on that door as we can.”

    The Celtic View returns tomorrow, Wednesday, January 9 for the first issue of 2019.

    To download a digital version of the magazine, click on the banner below.

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