THERE are those who will disagree with Tom Boyd’s contention that residing in Scotland need not be a barrier for young continentals seeking to stake a claim with their national teams. Chief among this faction is likely to be Celtic’s Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk who is continually overlooked by the Netherlands.
However, on the back of Fraser Forster being capped by England last season while at Celtic, former captain Boyd believes a first cap earned by a certain promising youngster this week is further proof that a stint with the Scottish champions can be “a stepping stone to better things”.
“Previously, people have said you had to move to the English Premier League to get international caps. Well, Jason Denayer playing his first game for Belgium the other night proves that’s not the case,” said Boyd. “Especially when he came on in a qualification game, not a friendly.”
Denayer appeared as a 66th minute substitute in his country’s 1-0 win over Israel in a Euro 2016 qualifier, the 19-year-old being introduced to compensate for the visitors’ loss of his Manchester City team-mate Vincent Kompany who was sent off two minutes earlier. Boyd believes the on-loan teenager could next season be appearing on the same pitch as his fellow international, much as he would like him to stay in Glasgow “for the next ten years”.
Yet, the centre-back’s development, and the fact he could leave with three winners’ medals as well as a first cap, means even the likelihood that Denayer will return to his parent club could benefit Celtic in the long run.
“What he has shown, as Forster did, is that if you play to a standard and your national manager appreciates that standard, then you should be good enough no matter where you are playing. He has excelled, put in a level of consistency, that has earned him the right to be put in the squad and now getting an international cap. It’s to be hoped that Celtic can attract a lot more players like that by saying ‘look, if you come into Scottish football and you do it, you will win caps and contracts elsewhere’.
“People said you had to be in the English Premier League to get international caps”Tom Boyd
“We would love these guys to stay here longer but we know the reality at Celtic and other Scottish teams is that you cannot compete. The champions in the Premier up here get a couple of million and down in England next season in the Premier the bottom team will get £100 million. Players want a part of that, and you can’t blame them. But you hope some of these guys will want to come in and have a shot up here to make a start. On the Celtic side, you have to make sure they have the right attitude, and desire. Certainly Denayer has that – you can see he wants to show that he can be good. I think he is worthy of a chance at City and from what I have seen of their games, he would slot into their defence.”
Denayer has helped Celtic challenge for a possible treble and Boyd does not believe that if the team do the clean sweep, the current crop will be any less deserving of praise than the last Celtic team to achieve the feat in 2000-01 when Boyd was club captain. Rangers may have been in the league then but they did not provide the level of competition that Celtic have faced from Aberdeen this season, with 15 points the winning margin 14 years ago. “It will stand comparison,” Boyd said. “You beat what’s in front of you. The hardest thing for the bigger clubs is winning the cups. The league in the current format, and with the squad Celtic have should be, not a formality, but a competition they are very strong favourites for.
“Cups are difficult ones. Celtic have had a terrible record in the League Cup down the years and been beaten by teams they shouldn’t have been beaten by. It just shows you how difficult it is to win trebles
“In recent months, Celtic have played with a good confidence and been good to watch and if they did win the treble, they will get the same adulation as when we won it in 2001 and when Billy [McNeill] picked it up twice in the 1960s.”
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