Karamoko Dembele: Too much expectation?

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Karamoko Dembele made his Celtic u-20 debut, coming on in a Development League game against Hearts at Cappielow. The 13 year old, originally born in London to parents from the Ivory Coast, went viral when this story broke online on Tuesday night. The question is, as it put more expectation on him to succeed?

Dembele was substituted on in the 81st minute on Monday, becoming the youngest player to play in the development league. This has inevitably attracted much interest not just in Scotland, but around the world. But did it really need to happen? No. That would be the simple answer for the many reasons below.

The hype surrounding this kid will continue to build as rumours are circling that the SFA have already tried to fast-track him into the Scotland set up to  represent his adopted country over the Ivory Coast – the nation of his parents or England –  his county of birth. With making his debut on Tuesday, people will expect him to continue to be involved in and around the U-20 set up between now and the end of the season. They could easily expect him to be a big part of the youth team by 15 and break into the first team, similar to Kieran Tierney, and nail down a starting berth by 17 or 18 years old. I have to feel Celtic have promoted him too highly and too early which leads me to my next point.

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The move to put Dembele in the team did send out a message but, for me, not the right one. I feel it’s a little bit of a disrespectful one. I understand Celtic clearly think highly of him, and the young kid does look a player, but did they really need to jump him up the age groups so much when they could’ve given one of their u17’s a run to give them some experience ahead of a potential move into the u20 team on a full time basis next year.  It’s also a bit disrespectful to Hearts by saying we can beat you with even by playing someone as young as Karamoko. Having said this, if they take it the right way, it does send out a positive message to those looking to earn a full time contract with the Scottish Champions and that is that they need to step up their game.

Scotland’s children’s commissioner has stated the need for a rule to be brought in to end the exploitation of children by clubs in Scotland following Dembele playing for Celtic’s u20’s. The SFA and SPFL were both “surprised” by these comments and SPFL main sponsor, Ladbrokes, have apologised for taking bets regarding the kids future within the game. According to the bookmaker, no bets were made and the markets have since been taken down.

Celtic stated that the player “did not look out of place” and that he played on merit. Young players can be locked into very low paid contracts at an early age that they can’t get out of and Karamoko could be another player to fall into this trap.  The Scottish Government is looking into changing the regulations regarding blocking professional clubs from tying up young prospects to similar deals in the future.

By Cameron Christie

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Is this really our time?

So the international fixtures beckon, over the years a time where Scotland supporters weren’t sure whether to get excited about or hide behind the sofa. From humiliating nights in Georgia, a 4-6-0 in the Czech Republic to ‘Faddymania’ in France, it really has been a frustrating past 18 years for the national side. However is this finally the time when Scotland return to the biggest stage of international football?

A revitalized squad

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The Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign couldn’t really have gotten off to a better start with a 5-1 win away to an “apparently” tricky opponent in Malta. Robert Snodgrass finally made his international return and left Malta with the match ball after notching three goals, could he be Scotland’s new talisman?

Elsewhere goals for Chris Martin (no not him from Coldplay) and Steven Fletcher will surely breathe confidence in both heading into this round of Fixtures versus Lithuania and Slovakia.

Not to be forgotten where the newbies with Hearts full back Callum Paterson finally getting the recognition of being his countries’ best right back and punting Alan Hutton from the spot he had nailed down for years. Also the first Scotland start for £13 million man Oliver Burke of RB Leipzig who looked to fit in comfortably on the wing.

The game also saw the first without long time captain Scott Brown who had recently retired from international football with Darren Fletcher stepping in as the new skipper. Brown bowed out amassing a total of 50 caps and four goals for his country.

The Manager

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Some were surprised to see Gordon Strachan remain in charge of the national side after failing to qualify for – the expanded – Euro 2016. Albeit wee Gordon is still in charge for what will surely be his final chance to become the first Scotland boss since Craig Brown to take his nation to a major finals.

Despite the optimism from above, there are still a few bug bears that supporters have with Strachan. His stubbornness to stick with the tried, tested and failed riles up sections of supporters. For example the inclusions of players like Alan Hutton, Gordon Greer, Steven Whittaker, Chris Martin and Steven Fletcher – who despite their goals vs Malta – aren’t quite cut for international football anymore.

In fairness to Strachan he has decided to call up some younger, hungrier players in the most recent squads with players like Oliver Burke, Callum Paterson, John McGinn and Kenny McLean all helping themselves to a piece of international action.

This is very likely going to be Strachan’s last shot at international success so there is a bit of pressure on his shoulders to provide the desperate Scotland supporters of a trip to Russia.

Bits ‘n’ Pieces

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Scotland fans at Wembley

On one final note, what are the SFA thinking by changing the iconic 500 miles by The Proclaimers to the dance tune Bits ‘n’ Pieces by GBX to Scotland’s goal scoring song. Hearing 500 miles belt around Hampden after a Scotland goal was synonymous with the national stadium.

So for the sake of tradition lets hope we score a sack full against Lithuania and hear the supporter’s disdain for the song and it gets changed back to 500 miles.