Young Celts relishing big kick-off
By: Mark Henderson on 06 Aug, 2012 11:06
CELTIC Under-20s will kick off their league campaign this Tuesday night with a home game against St Mirren at Firhill. And both the players and coaching staff are relishing the start of competitive action.
The newly-formed U20 league will be a step into the unknown for the young Hoops whose squad will comprise mainly of those who starred for the Under-17 side last season.
And while they could come up against older and more experienced opponents, due to the rule that allows teams to include several over-age players, the Hoops are excited about meeting that challenge head-on.
Speaking exclusively to the official website, Head of Celtic´s Professional Academy, Tommy McIntyre, said: "I would hope they are looking forward to it as they have certainly shown a real hunger and desire during pre-season.
"We have been pleasantly surprised how well they have adapted to pre-season and how well the young players have come in alongside the more senior players, who are still young themselves.
"We recognise that we don´t want to put too much pressure on them as well. We are really excited about the U20 league, as it is unknown for us as well and we don’t know how it will progress.
"But we like the competition side of it and we like the fact we are preparing as a squad of players at the end of the week.
"The most important thing is developing the players but the games are something to look forward to and focus on and a chance to learn if they progressing. All in all, it should be an excellent exercise for the coaching staff as well as the players."
The young Celts finalised their preparations at the weekend with a goal-less draw in a friendly against Selkirk, a game which they dominated but were unable to find the back of the net.
And they will certainly face a tough test on Tuesday when the Paisley side visit Firhill - the youths´ new home for the next 12 months
"St Mirren had a young squad last year when we played them in the Youth Cup so I think they will all be available and coupled with one or two experienced players they will be a formidable team," said McIntyre.
"In the past they have always given us difficult games and I think they have shown they can make it difficult for us.
"I´m sure they will be looking forward to it, as well in the fact it´s at Firhill," he added. "As much as we have great facilities here, all clubs must now adhere to a certain standard which wasn’t always the case, and I was sometimes critical of the facilities we played at U19s.
"But hopefully now with the clubs talking about playing at their own ground or equivalent will serve a purpose. All credit to St Mirren, they have a good youth set-up and, as always, they will come and make it difficult for us."
Another advantage of the games being held in a stadium and in the evenings will be the opportunity for supporters to turn out and watch the youngsters in action. Having the fans´ backing makes a massive difference to the players, according to McIntyre.
"When the games were on a Saturday morning or Friday morning a lot of people couldn’t get off their work," he said. "It´s also closer to Celtic Park as well and hopefully there will be a good turnout to see the kids but I ask that they be patient with them as they will be a young squad.
"Every game will be on a Monday or Tuesday night, with the only difference if it´s against Ross County, Inverness or Aberdeen. Because of the travelling, it might mean the game takes place in the afternoon.
"It would be great for the fans to come out and it will be great for the young players as well. No matter where you go there are Celtic supporters - the greatest fans in the world - which is fantastic.
"And if we get a good level of support and they really cheer on the young players they will take great heart from that as well."
Celtic Under-20s' game with St Mirren will kick-off this Tuesday, August 7 at 7pm. Entry is FREE to the Jackie Husband Stand at Firhill, which will be open.