The uncomplicated style and daunting size of Shane Duffy has drawn comparisons with the hulking Bobo Balde since the Irish centre-back sealed a loan switch to Celric from Brighton last week.
Further parallels between the pair were the other day when Duffy himself cited the Guinean centre-back as his first idol at his boyhood club.
Neil Lennon, though, wants Duffy – in line for a debut at Dingwall this afternoon – to be allowed to make his own mark.
“If he has as good a career here as Bobo did then I’ll be absolutely delighted with that. I’m sure that’s a great compliment to Bobo, but he’s Shane Duffy, he’s a player in his own right,” said the Celtic manager, a team-mate of Balde’s across the first decade of this millennium.
“Hopefully he’ll have plenty of big situations and big moments in his time here that people start to look up to him for.”
Duffy, like Balde, attacks his duties in fearsome fashion and Lennon believes the 28-year-old from Derry is in good shape to do that against Ross County today, despite finding game time limited this year.
“He got two games for Ireland, his first since January, and that was welcome,” Lennon said of the defender’s recent outings for the Republic Nations League internationals against Bulgaria and Finland.
“That was a match fitness boost for him but he’s a physical specimen and proficient in the air, defensively and offensively. Technically he’s very good, he’s a responsible type, he captains his country and he will understand the culture of the club. I always think it’s important to bring that type into the dressing room.
“He’s very, very brave in the air. That’s his forte, defending crosses or attacking crosses and set-plays. He puts his body on the line time and again, I’ve seen him do it for both his club and his country, and he’s actually very good on the ball. Technically he’s a very good player as well.” Celtic have been criticised in some quarter for lacking a bit of bite in defence and Lennon welcomed Duffy’s presence.
“He gives us that sort of physicality alongside [Christopher] Jullien, [Kristoffer] Ajer, [Nir] Bitton and [Hatem Abd] Elhamed, he gives us good strength,” said the manager.
“I think [his love of the club] is a huge motivation. I understand his background.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for him, it’s something he couldn’t let go, he couldn’t miss it. It will work both ways, we’ll be good for him and he’ll be good for us.”
Lennon believes that Celtic have strength at the back and up front, with Odsonne Eduoard restored to full fitness and Leigh Griffiths on the way back from a calf injury. A fortnight after playing without a recognised forward, it provided him with options from a striking quartet, with Albian Ajeti and Patryk Klimala also having stepped up their fitness over the international break.
“Odsonne got 20 minutes and then 70 minutes with France under-21s,” said Lennon. “He’s trained the last few days so he will be available for Ross County.
“Ajeti is a couple of weeks sharper and Griff is not too far away from being involved. He needs to do a little bit more fitness work. Patryk played a couple of games for Poland 21s and scored, so we have a great choice at centre forward and that’s great.”
Meanwhile, Lennon dismissed recent links with left-side players in Paris-Saint Germain’s full-back Mitchel Bakker and Queens Park Rangers winger Bright Osayi-Samuel.
“There’s nothing in that at all,” he said. “It’s just speculation at the minute.”
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