A big question to ponder for several members of the Celtic first team and development squads over the next few weeks. Should I stay or should I go? For some there won’t be any debate, the decision will be taken for them but for others who find themselves at a crossroads, the choice of which path to take requires a bit more thought.
For the younger players in the development squad, they will have seen some of their peers make the jump to the first team squad and will need to ask themselves how far away are they from taking the same steps. It must be every young boy’s dream when they have been scouted at an early age to progress through the ranks and make their debut in the senior team.
The harsh reality, however, is that very few get the chance to realise their dream. For every Kieran Tierney, there will be dozens of others who won’t make the grade. That is not to say that they are not good players with potential, it just means that they are in the wrong place at the wrong time and perhaps for the sake of their career they need to look for pastures new. On the other hand, their passion for Celtic may be such that they hold on to the belief that one day that opportunity may arise but in doing so they run the risk of losing their career if it doesn’t happen for them.
For some of the lads they will take the offer of a loan move to get first team game time with the hope that they do enough to earn a recall and perhaps a second chance. For others who have had a taste of the first team it is a more significant decision. One such player is Liam Henderson – a good player who had a run of games and did well, but then found himself slipping down the pecking order. For the midfielder, he now needs to decide if he would be better served to let go of his Celtic dream and making his mark with another club, or wait for either another chance or the prospect of being served up as a makeweight in a cash plus player deal.
If the decision for Henderson is difficult, how would it feel to be a first team regular having to contemplate your future?
For some players it is a simple choice. When you are at the top of your game and adored by the fans, as was the case with Larsson, you can leave with legendary status assured for others the acceptance that their best days are slipping away is harder to come to terms.
Do you play out your last few seasons with the club you love or do you move on and perhaps have a fresh challenge to see out your career?
That is the choice facing Mikael Lustig. Every player has a shelf life no matter how much they are loved or as in Lustig’s case a cult figure with the fans. He will know that Ralston wants that right back slot, he will also be aware that time is not on his side, so what is he to do. He could do worse than take note of the situation that Emilio Izaguirre found himself in when Kieran Tierney arrived on the scene. He too will have sensed the sands of time and decided to stay at the club to mentor the youngster who he knew would be his replacement and to provide valuable experienced back up for a further eighteen months.
If Lustig can accept that role, he too would be a valuable member of the squad providing experience and back up cover not just at right back but also as a possible central defender to see out his career at the club that he clearly loves.
A footballer’s career is a short one and every decision needs to be carefully considered. That applies across the full spectrum of the club whether you are a youngster who might just be falling short of the quality required or an experienced campaigner knowing that the final whistle is about to blow.