JUST when Neil Lennon thought his injury woes couldn’t get any worse, he had to contend with losing Glenn Loovens at half-time in the Europa League game against Rennes at Celtic Park.
And stepping into the spotlight was 17-year-old Marcus Fraser. The young Celtic Youth Academy graduate played the second 45 alongside Daniel Majstorovic and didn’t put a foot wrong as the Hoops ran out well-deserved 3-1 winners against the French side.
It was the perfect competitive debut for the young Celt, whose only previous first-team experience had been playing the friendly match against Athletic Bilbao last season.
And he was delighted at having played and won in front of his fellow Celtic fans.
“I’m really pleased with how things went, and I really hope I can now build on this,” Fraser said after the game. “I’m a 17-year-old and I just want to play for Celtic.
“I got the chance to play against Athletic Bilbao last season while there were internationals on and I enjoyed it. It was a really good experience to be involved in.
“But this was even better, playing at home with far more Celtic supporters, and everyone stuck behind us, even after we went behind so early.”
The call to action came after Loovens was forced to come off at the break. The Dutchman had only just returned to the side, and with Charlie Mulgrew out injured and Thomas Rogne not able to play in the competition, Neil Lennon had a number of youthful options to call upon.
“I never even got time to feel nervous,” explained Fraser. “I was out warming up and I knew Glenn Loovens had a problem with his hamstring.
“The sports scientist called me in and the manager just told me to go out and do what I do at Under-19 level.
“Big Daniel Majstorovic helped me a lot, winning all the headers and getting blocks in. Beram Kayal and Victor Wanyama were just shutting down everything, and the full-backs, too, were shutting down things.
“If I get another call at the weekend for the Motherwell game, then I need to do what I did tonight.
“But everyone helped me. As a young player you want to take all the chances that come.”
And manager Neil Lennon was delighted with the result and performance of his team, including an impressive competitive debut for his teenage defender.
Speaking after the game, the Celtic manager said: “Losing Glenn Loovens at half-time was a blow, but young Marcus Fraser came in and did brilliantly.
“I didn’t want to change the shape of the team and take Wanyama out of the midfield as he was doing so well.
“I brought Stevie Frail down to the dressing-room at half-time and asked him what he thought. We had young Joe Chalmers there as well, but Stevie felt Marcus would handle the occasion better.
“We played him in Bilbao last year in front of 40,000 and he had a great game. For him to play so well is a credit to him and to our Academy for the players they are producing.”
Celtic's Under-19s are in European action this Monday, November 7 when they take on Manchester City in the prestigious NextGen Series.
The match at Celtic Park kicks off at 7.45pm and you can get along to cheer on the young Bhoys as they look to beat the English side for a second time, having won 4-2 in the previous encounter.Tickets for the match are on sale, priced £5 for adults, and £2 concessions.
They can be purchased ONLINE, by calling 0871 226 1888* or by visiting the Celtic Ticket Office.
*Calls cost up to 10p per minute, telecoms provider dependent. Mobile and other provider charges may vary.