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  • John Kennedy: We knew we had to give Jeremie first-team chance

    John Kennedy: We knew we had to give Jeremie first-team chance

    By: Paul Cuddihy on 05 Apr, 2020 11:01

  • ONE of the many success stories for Celtic this season has been the emergence of Jeremie Frimpong into the first team. The teenage defender arrived at Paradise from Manchester City back in September on a four-year deal, and while he may have initially been viewed as one for the future, it quickly became apparent to the Celtic management team that this was a player who was ready for top team action sooner rather than later.

    And the instincts of Neil Lennon and his backroom staff proved to be right as the Dutch youngster instantly impressed with his performances, becoming a fans’ favourite and also coining a new catchphrase ‘Oh my days!’.

    Speaking to the Celtic View podcast, assistant manager John Kennedy explained: “It’s been a big plus for us. Jeremie came in for us as a young player with talent, but in terms of coming of coming in and being around the squad initially to get a feel for it, and then build him up to hopefully become in the future an important player for us.

    “But, to be fair, it was one where, over a period of weeks, and seeing him on a daily basis, he kept impressing. He kept showing what he was about. He’s very determined, he’s got terrific pace and what fans were seeing in the games, we were seeing on a regular basis in training.

    “And I remember there was just one day when myself, the manager and Damien were talking at the side of the training pitch, and it was a case of we’re just going to have to put him in, we can’t hold him back any longer, and that’s what happened basically.

    “That’s how he got himself in the team and it was through how he was training and the impression he was making within that. Forget about his age, or the size of him or anything else. What he can offer and the ability he has was just too much to hold back.

    “You get that with young players. There comes a time, and you can sense it, where you’re going to have to put them in, whether that’s an appearance here or there, or right, okay, just put him in and see how he goes.”

    Frimpong’s first-team debut came in a 5-0 League Cup win over Partick Thistle at Celtic Park towards the end of September, and while it would be almost another month before he got another game, in a home win over Ross County, after that he never looked back.

    In only his third game for Celtic – which was also only his third professional game – he scored in the 4-0 win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie, and he netted another in a 2-0 home win over Hibernian.

    He also picked up a League Cup winner’s medal, and a red card, in the same game as the Hoops beat Rangers to win the trophy for a fourth consecutive season, while he’s also had to contend with time out through injury. It has been an eventful first few months for a player who only turned 19 in December.

    “The manager had great faith in Jeremie,” said John Kennedy. “He identified quickly that we had to give him the opportunity and then see how he develops and progresses, and he’s never looked back. And he’s been an important player for us in the games he’s played.

    “Every day he’s the exact same. He doesn’t change who he is. He’s very real, there’s no falseness about him, and he’s very bubbly and a great character to have around, and he’s a very good trainer.

    “He’s still got a lot to do. He’s young and naïve at times, and there have been some of the bigger games with positioning and things, and little things where he maybe loses concentration, but you forget how young he is, and as much as he’s got so much to offer, being a young player he’s still got a lot to do as well.

    “But he knows that. He’s one where we’ve got regular contact with, and we chat to him about things, and we work on things, but the ability he has, and the natural and physical elements of his game that he offers, he’s only going to get better and better.

    “So the more games he plays, the more he works with us, hopefully he keeps developing and who knows where that may lead to.”

    Listen to the full Celtic View podcast with assistant manager, John Kennedy.

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