Looking to the final four meaningless Premiership fixtures – and that extends to the last derby at Ibrox, irrespective of Rangers’ pursuit of an unbeaten league campaign – interim Celtic manager John Kennedy should stop selecting players who will spirit themselves away during the close season. That means, starting with Wednesday’s trip to Aberdeen, he ought to give up the ghost with such as the out-of-body Odsonne Edouard, the soon-to-be-ghost-of-Celtic-past Scott Brown, and loanees whose apparitions will be disappearing in a matter of weeks.
Having appeared as if he might be worthy of signing permanently, Everton’s Jonjoe Kenny has played himself out of contention for such a move with his inhibited displays in two outings against Rangers. The skittish nature of AC Milan Diego Laxalt places him in the same category. The one expectation to this dispensing rule might be Mohamed Elyounoussi, who has delivered on occasions – some of them major ones – in his second season on a temporary deal from Southampton.
What Kennedy should be using his own last four games in charge to do is give game time to players that could be involved at Celtic in the next campaign. Although, it is frightening how few of the starting line-up for the latest slipshod showing against Rangers come into that bracket.
David Turnbull is suddenly Celtic’s one shining light, one player around which the next manager can build his team. Callum McGregor can cut a weary figure at times, but he can be expected to hang around and, as the captain-elect, should be retained. Into the midfield mix must come Ismaila Soro. As a potential successor to Brown, it is daft if he isn’t given starts across the next month to develop further into the anchor role.
It is unlikely that Celtic will land as lucky with last summer’s £5million striker buy Albian Ajeti as they have in recouping the £3.5m fee paid out on Patryk Klimala through offloading him to New York Red Bulls. They must look to get a turn from Ajeti because, at times, he has looked capable and is certainly a natural finisher. The 24-year-old should be selected in preference to Edouard because the Frenchman’s heart just is not in his endeavours for the club with which he will part ways during the summer. His value will not depreciate because he drops out of four Scottish top flight games. If anything, the fact that might keep him fresher for the latter stages of the under-21 Euro finals – which will see his tournament favourites meet the Netherlands in a quarter-final on May 31 – could enhance his sale price.
The absence of many youthful fringe alternatives for Kennedy to introduce is in part down to such personnel being farmed out on loan. That accounts for Leo Hjelde (Ross County), Ewan Henderson (Dunfermline), Scott Robertson (Doncaster) and Luca Connell (Queen’s Park). However, Adam Montgomery has recently graduated to the Celtic bench and the 18-year-old attacking left-back should be given the opportunity to show what he can do across the closing matches. It isn’t as if there is anything to lose. How could there be when all has already been lost.