Shane Duffy’s loan to Celtic is proof that hindsight is wonderful – but foresight would be even better.
Four months ago, the move was meant to revive his stuck career and start the fire under Celtic’s responsibility at Ten in a Row. Still, we’re here in January, just over halfway through the season, and the big center-back has been so disappointing that there is already talk of sacking him early to Brighton.
Fueled by a succession of underwhelming performances which brutally exposed his lack of pace and inability to play from behind, newspaper reports suggested that neither Celtic nor Brighton are opposed to the loan cut.
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Newcastle, Celtic, West Brom, Sheffield Utd and Burnley are all interested in signing Crystal Palace midfielder James McCarthy, who is without a contract this summer.
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His parent club, wants him back on the books only if there is another suitor lined up and ready to shoulder the majority of his £ 45,000 weekly salary. It doesn’t seem likely given its shape.
It should be noted that these reports are not exactly watertight. Considering how badly things turned out for everyone involved, the mutual benefits of an early recall are obvious, but anything that stems from a sidebar in The Sun should be taken with a pinch of salt – in especially when excessive reliance on the word ‘suggests that they are not overconfident in their own assessment.
As inconsistent and error-ridden as Duffy’s performance has been, it may be that losing him now is simply more complicated than it’s worth for Celtic. Their season is crumbling around them, their Dubai coronavirus mess comes as the Rangers move up 22 points ahead of the league lead, and Neil Lennon probably just wants to see the rest come out with as little fuss as possible. .
They should be looking to the future, but they are fully in crisis management mode. And Duffy’s departure, at a time when they are already on the hunt for a new center-back after Christopher Jullien’s long-term injury, is just another headache.
Only Duffy will know where he prefers to spend the second half of 2020/21 but, if history tells us anything about the Irishman, he will not have given up yet. A determined character, and a Celtic fan, he will desperately need to prove that he can weather the SPFL storm, and walk away with the respect of the fans.
It’s an understatement to say that things haven’t gone as planned so far. Celtic were hoping for a Scott Sinclair-style impact, but on the import scale of English football they ended up with something closer to Joey Barton.
But while damage control may be tempting, the reality is that Duffy, Celtic and Brighton have their reasons for letting things go to a natural end.
With a few weeks to go until the end of January, it’s impossible to call out exactly what will happen by the time the window closes. But despite reports, an early exit seems just as unlikely as a dramatic return to form.