Shane Duffy’s loan to Celtic is proof that hindsight is wonderful – but foresight would be even better.
Four months ago, the move was set reignite his stalled career and light the fire under Celtic’s charge to Ten in a Row. Yet here we are in January, a little more than halfway through the season, and the big centre-back has been so disappointing that there is already talk of sending him back to Brighton early.
Fuelled by a succession of underwhelming performances that have brutally exposed his lack of pace and inability to play out from the back, newspaper reports have suggested that neither Celtic or Brighton are averse to cutting the loan short.
13 Celtic players plus manager Neil Lennon have been forced into isolation as a result of Christopher Jullien testing positve for coronavirus after Dubai camp.
Celtic centre-back Jack Hendry, on loan at Oostende, has interest from Aston Villa, Brighton, Wolves, Bournemouth and several other clubs across Europe.
Newcastle, Celtic, West Brom, Sheffield Utd and Burnley are all interested in signing Crystal Palace midfielder James McCarthy, who is out of contract in summer
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His parent club though, want him back on the books only if there is another suitor lined up, and willing to take on the majority of his £45,000-a-week salary. That doesn’t look likely considering his form.
It should be noted that those reports aren’t exactly watertight. Considering how badly things have gone for all involved, the mutual benefits of an early recall are obvious, but everything that stems from a sidebar in The Sun should be taken with a pinch of salt – especially when an over-reliance on the word ‘could’ suggests they’re not overly confident in their own assessment.
As inconsistent and error-strewn as Duffy’s performances have been, it may be that losing him now is simply more hassle than it’s worth for Celtic. Their season is collapsing around them, their Dubai coronavirus shambles coming as Rangers move 22 points clear at the top of the league, and Neil Lennon probably just wants to see the remainder out with as little fuss as possible.
They should be looking ahead, but they are fully in crisis-management mode. And Duffy leaving, at a time when they are already in the market for a new centre-back after Christopher Jullien’s long-term injury, is just another headache.
Only Duffy will know where he’d rather spend the second half of 2020/21 but, if history tells us anything about the Irishman, he won’t have given up yet. A determined character, and a Celtic fan, he will be desperate to prove he can cope with the tempestuous SPFL, and leave with the respect of the fans.
It’s an understatement to say things haven’t gone to plan so far. Celtic were hoping for a Scott Sinclair-style impact, but on the English football import scale, they’ve ended up with something closer to Joey Barton.
But while damage limitation may be tempting, the reality is that Duffy, Celtic, and Brighton have their reasons to let things play out to a natural end.
With weeks left until the end of January, it’s impossible to call exactly what will transpire between now and the closure of the window. But reports notwithstanding, an early exit seems just as unlikely as a dramatic return to form.