Why Celtic B team face Bonnyrigg grudge match in Lowland League bow

It isn’t often a first game between two clubs could be described as a grudge match.

Celtic B manager Tommy McIntyre wants his team's precence in the Lowland League to create a "halfway" between youth and senior level at the club. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

The term has resonance, though, for Celtic B team’s inaugural encounter in the Lowland League that will see them head for Midlothian to face Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic today. Bonnyrigg were implacably opposed to the inclusion of Celtic and Rangers B teams in the set-up for 2021-21 season. In a statement issued in May, the New Dundas Park club revealed that, following a consultation with members and supporters, 95% were against the move. It set aside sporting integrity, they maintained, owing to the Glasgow clubs not earning promotion to the Lowland League from the tier of the pyramid below it.

Celtic B team manager Tommy McIntyre yesterday had no interest engaging with the controversies surrounding the initiative - which will be a one-season only redrawing of the country’s league structure, with SPFL clubs rejecting proposals for the two B teams to be co-opted into League Two come season 2022-23. “We are there and my only focus is the game,” he said, revealing that, in theory, players will be able to switch between the club’s B and senior team, providing they do not cross a threshold for first-team outings. McIntyre said Celtic’s B team will be “super young”, with players integrated into it from the club’s under-17s and under-18s set-ups in a bid to provide a stepping stone in their pathway.

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“No doubt there will be a lot of people looking in to see how it progresses,” said McIntyre. “[Our young players] can be a wee bit mollycoddled at times, it’s a nice environment in here, now they are out in the big world. They will take a few knocks, no doubt about that, but we are trying to recreate the halfway between youth and first team. That is probably the most difficult thing, not just in Scotland but in Europe. We are trying to create something that will be beneficial to our young players, but more importantly our first team. I think people don’t understand how much quality is in the Lowland League. We are going to play a team [in Bonnyrigg Rose] with experienced players who have played Premiership games. So let’s not be unkind to these teams.”

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