What can Celtic do to stop exodus of young talent?

Evan Easton recently became the latest Celtic youth player to depart the club at a young age as he moved on to Premier League side Sheffield United’s youth academy.

This was no surprise, as the club’s best youth academy prodigies being plucked by academies across Europe is an all-too-familiar story.

Why are so many young players leaving Celtic, and what can be done to stop this wave of departures?

Karamoko Dembele

Arguably the most promising player in Celtic’s youth academy over the last decade, Dembele failed to live up to the early hype. Now at Blackpool after a failed spell at Brest, things could have worked out so differently at Celtic.

Early pressure on young shoulders after being included in the Celtic under-20 squad at 13 wouldn’t have been the best for Dembele’s progression, and frustrations eventyually grew for the now 20-year-old due to a lack of first-team opportunities.

Poorly-timed injuries hampered key development opportunities and ultimately led to Dembele seeking to leave for pastures new.

Barry Hepburn & Liam Morrison

Barry Hepburn and Liam Morrison both left Celtic for Bayern Munich at a young age. Hepburn is currently on loan and playing well at Championship club Queen’s Park, whilst Morrison is on loan at Wigan.

Both players are still aiming to work their way up the ranks at Bayern Munich.

Josh Adam

Josh Adam departed for the Man City Academy which has been producing some high-quality players in recent years. Despite first-team minutes being near-on impossible at the Etihad, Adam has been attracting interest from the likes of French side Lille for his exploits in the City Academy.

Ben Doak

Doak made his Celtic debut under Ange Postecoglou at the age of just 16. After two appearances, he left for Liverpool.

Now 17, Doak has played half-a-dozen games for Jürgen Klopp’s side. With his rapid progression showing no signs of halting, it seems just a matter of time before he makes his international debut for Scotland.


There are a number of different factors behind these players leaving Celtic. Whether it be frustrations with the Celtic setup or a club elsewhere is able to offer more money and exposure, the one common denominator is that the first-team opportunities at Celtic just aren’t going to arise.

As a club that is expected to win every single game, at least domestically, Celtic struggle to find the opportunity to rotate the team and very rarely take a chance on giving young players an opportunity.

The recent success stories from the Celtic Academy only really got their opportunities because of injuries or loan spells which forced the club to play players from the youth academy.

Arguably the most successful in recent years, Kieran Tierney, only got his first-team opportunities because of an injury to Emilio Izaguirre.

Anthony Ralston and Stephen Welsh got their first-team opportunities because of injuries to starting players that forced the club’s hand.

Even club captain, Callum McGregor, only got his opportunity because of a successful loan spell at Notts County, not because of his work in the Celtic youth academy.

The point is, Celtic need to fix the academy and build a clearer pathway to the first-team for those working their way through the ranks. Otherwise, the club is only going to continue to bleed talent for the foreseeable future.


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