Is Ewan Henderson the next big star to emerge from Celtic's academy?

Arms stretched out in front of him, motioning to his feet, Ewan Henderson time and again not only offered himself for a pass, he demanded the pass.
Ewan Henderson picked up the man of the match award after Celtic's 4-1 win over Motherwell.Ewan Henderson picked up the man of the match award after Celtic's 4-1 win over Motherwell.
Ewan Henderson picked up the man of the match award after Celtic's 4-1 win over Motherwell.

"Pass me the ball. I want the ball."

It wasn't so much desperation as obsession. An obsession to be involved, to touch the ball, to be involved, to get Celtic moving.

Sunday was quite the day in Scottish football. Rangers thumped five past Hamilton in a dominant display but their fans took some of the attention away from the win with a banner and song mocking Kilmarnock boss Steve Clarke.

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Ex-Hibs ace John McGinn and Hearts defender Clevid Dikamona got involved in one of the most unlikely Twitter spats with the former calling the latter a "grass" for tweeting SPFL about a horrible challenge from St Mirren midfielder Greg Tansey.

Meanwhile, the Celtic game had all sorts going on. There was the speculation surrounding Brendan Rodgers and the vacant Leicester City job, the return of Kieran Tierney after 82 days out and Nir Bitton's first start in 439 days. Then there was the debacle over the perceived lack of sportsmanship surrounding Motherwell's goal.

In amongst it all was the starring role of Ewan Henderson in the league leaders' 4-1 win over the Steelmen.

With midfield injuries, Henderson, brother of ex-Hibs and Celtic star Liam, was fielded in the central midfield three, ahead of Bitton and to the right of Ryan Christie.

The 18-year-old made his Celtic debut last year, while he came off the bench in the 4-0 win over St Mirren last month to set up Timothy Weak with a fine pass which cut the Buddies defence open.

Against Motherwell more responsibility was put on his shoulders, and as a starting player for the Parkhead side expectations naturally increased. No longer was it youth football.

As Rodgers noted post-match: "He’s playing against a good team, that are strong, that are physical and also play very good football."

It was a rushed, over eager start to the match, Henderson loose with the ball and his touch. Understandable but also a useful test, not for his ability but his mentality. What would his reaction be? Try and just play safe to ease his way into the game? Go into a shell?

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He provided the answer in the tenth minute. Pinned into the corner, facing his own goal, many players would turn and try to play a hopeful ball up the line. The midfielder steadily dropped a pass off to Nir Bitton and Celtic popped the ball about and had beaten the Celtic press.

Following that exchange he grew more into the match, appearing to playing his own game of two-touch. Asking for the ball, getting the ball, control and it was away again.

In James Forrest, Henderson had someone he developed a good relationship with. He would move over to the right to exchange a quick one-two. Such a move is the perfect way to break down team who come to Celtic Park and sit deep, which Motherwell did as the home side gained domination of the ball.

A willingness to get on the ball, his control and technique were qualities which initially stood out but as the game progressed his intelligence and awareness came to the fore as did his ambition when in possession.

The second goal epitomised such attributes. With Forrest moving infield and taking Richard Tait with him, Henderson made a run into the vacated space out wide without anyone tracking him. One touch, a fantastic cross and Odsonne Edouard had doubled Celtic's lead.

He nearly set up a third for the home side before the interval when his invention and combination with Ryan Christie saw Mark Gillespie called into action.

As ever with young talents, one aspect of their game which is constantly drilled into them is their work off the ball. When he lost the ball his first thought was winning it back. He didn't see the dirty side of the midfield job as beneath him.

It was his fine work to win the ball back which saw Celtic build towards the opening goal.

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"He was in there, played 90 minutes, showed his poise, showed his control," Rodgers said.

“He’s got physical development to come but he was a joy to watch, his touch and control of the game. His ball for the goal was sensational and he played with real maturity so I’m delighted for him.”

Competition for places in the midfield at Celtic is fierce but with a man of the match award tucked under his arm, Henderson put in a display which gives the manager food for thought.

It may be too early to envisage Henderson leading the Celtic and Scotland midfields for years to come but early signs are positive. Celtic and Scotland could have another gem on their hands.