I know it’s early, but what’s football without wild predictions?
I reckon Scott Allan has almost everything to become the man Celtic build not only their team, but club around in the coming years.
Why? Well, let me explain.
In the seven appearances he’s made as a Hoops player so far, it’s clear to see he’s a talented player. But going beyond those games for Celtic and his form at Hibs last season pointed to an individual with loftier aspirations than playing regularly in the Scottish Championship.
Most Hibs fans would be honest in saying that their run to the play-off semi-final last year wouldn’t have happened without Allan’s class. They weren’t a one-man team – as they’ve shown since he left the club – but they weren’t far from it, relying on the playmaker to dictate matches from midfield in a way Dylan McGeouch, Fraser Fyvie and Liam Craig simply weren’t capable of. He wasn’t just too good for Hibs, he was arguably a level above Scottish football at times and it was no real surprise that both Celtic and Rangers came calling in August.
The potential for Allan to play a key role at Parkhead is as much about his ability as it is the circumstances which surround Ronny Deila’s team at the moment.
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He’s not the fastest and I’ve yet to see the trick many slower players rely on in one-on-one situations, but if incisive, intelligent link play between midfield and attack is what big teams like Celtic need then who cares?
It’s the situation of the rest of Deila’s overcrowded midfield which pushes Allan to the fore.
The elegant Tom Rogic has emerged as a legitimate starting candidate in the number 10 role since the start of the season. He’s played 22 times and scored five goals – a very decent return considering he’s made his fair share of appearances off the bench this term too. But is the tall Australian international the long-term option for Celtic – both domestically and in Europe?
It’s all personal opinion, but he’s not dominating games in Scotland and physically he looks like Europe could get the better of him if Deila wants to continue with his high-pressing approach to defending.
Stefan Johansen and Kris Commons have been Celtic heroes at one point or another and, at 24 and 32 respectively, both will feel they’ve still got plenty to offer.
Commons reaching 90 goals for the club in the 1-1 draw with Fenerbahce last week is evidence of that. But he’s not Deila’s man – he never has been, and never will be and the way he’s played second fiddle to most other midfielders this campaign shows that.
As for Johansen, I doubt there are many Celtic fans left who believe the Norwegian’s long-term future is at the club, regardless of whether he puts an end to his woeful run of form or not. With 18 months left on his deal and having interested other teams last season, surely all parties are thinking about an exit plan?
As for Armstrong, Forrest, Callum McGregor, Gary Mackay-Steven or Ryan Christie, the jury is still out on whether they’re even good enough to play regularly for Celtic, let alone be the cornerstone of Deila’s team going forward.
In Allan, Celtic have a player a few attributes off being a number 10 you can hang your hat on.
Where is Celtic’s next generation player?
Supporters had Charlie Nicholas, Paul McStay and then Henrik Larsson – but who comes next? Allan has to be that guy! He’s young enough, talented enough, Scottish enough – and just looks like a player. Do you know what I mean? He just looks like he knows how to play football the right way.
His eye for a final pass is evident, but he can also work hard, shoot, can be a danger from set pieces and has an aggressive streak some probably haven’t seen yet – all key to playing a position normally reserved for a fans’ favourite.
At 24, he’s the right age to go on and play in the Celtic team for the next 10 years if it’s right for both parties. And, most significantly, he’s already had his move to the English Premier League go wrong. West Brom didn’t want him and several loan spells followed before he moved north to Hibs.
Does does Allan really want to go through a failed crack at England again?
Allan’s now got an opportunity to play at the highest level with the biggest team in his homeland and that will inevitably bring Scotland recognition if he can do what I believe he’s capable of.
It’s time for Deila to keep to his promises and start building a young, talented Celtic side capable of meeting the fans’ expectations within the next five years.
Suddenly then the defeats to Legia Warsaw, Malmo, Molde and the rest will have been worth something.