Celtic B head coach Tommy McIntyre will lead his players into battle against Morton. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
There might not be any Scottish Premiership action for Celtic fans to sink their teeth into this weekend due to the international break.
However, Hoops supporters can still take in their Saturday football fix by going to watch their ‘B’ team in action as they entertain Championship outfit Morton in the SPFL Trust Trophy second round at the Excelsior Stadium.
Tommy McIntyre’s young side defeated League Two Annan Athletic 2-0 in the previous round, thanks to second half goals from Lee O’Connor and Scott Robertson.
Academy coach McIntyre reckons his youngsters will face their toughest test of the season to date as he addressed the media ahead of tomorrow’s encounter.
He said: “With no disrespect to other teams we’ve faced in the Lowland League so far, this game is a different test all together for us.
“Morton are in the Championship and they’ve just brought in four new players over the transfer window, but that’s why we’re here.
“It’s to take our young players out of their comfort zone, because ultimately we’ll be judged by players that step up from the Academy to the first team.
“If we can give them that grounding and tough games such as this which might make them feel a bit uneasy then what an exciting challenge that is for our players.”
The young Celts are enjoying an impressive run of form having scored 18 goals and conceded just once during the month of August as they stretched their unbeaten run to eight games.
McIntyre feels they are better equipped to progress further in the competition this season as the Parkhead youngsters look to emulate their run to the third round during the 2016/17 season.
He admitted: “Winning games of football is a good habit to get into and that’s something we need to keep striving for.
“It brings positivity, confidence and more energy to the team. Often its who scored the goals that grab the headlines but it’s just as important keeping clean sheets and not conceding at the other end.
“We’ve shown in the Lowland League that we’re progressing gradually, something these young players would struggle to handle if they weren’t competing on this stage on a regular basis.
“I spoke recently to a Premiership manager out with the club who has had players out on loan in the Lowland League and he felt the standard of football was excellent.
“Considering we’ve had players as young as 16 featuring, I’ve been really surprised at how quickly they’ve adjusted to this level. These kids have excelled to the extent they give you a selection problem.
“All the boys are excited to face Morton and they’re going into the game in a good frame of mind.
“We’ve prepared like we do for every match in the same way and we’ve done our homework on them.
“However, it’s important to stress this match won’t define our season just like a players’ development isn’t based around just one game, that comes over the course of a season.
“There will be highs and lows but this is certainly our biggest challenge to date.”
McIntyre reckons the busy fixture schedule will have aided his players cause and believes they are reaping the benefits of spending more time on the training pitch since their last game against Dalbeattie Star a fortnight ago.
He stated: “Player development remains of paramount importance to us. Getting them in a position whereby they feel comfortable stepping up the first team is key.
“I feel the young players have really grown into the season and matured a lot which is testimony to some of the challenges that they’ve faced.
“If you look at the academy, we had four starters play against AZ Alkmaar in Europe and five finished the game, so you’re looking at 45 per cent of our young players featuring for the first team which is an incredibly stat.
“I’ve always maintained no matter how old you are, if you’re good enough then you’ll play regularly and that’s probably the most powerful message coming from the first team.
“It’s a great message that we can highlight to the players in our ‘B’ squad. We try to streamline our methodology with that of the first team and you can see the benefits Ange (Postecoglou) has got which is really positive for us.
“Adam Montgomery, Dane Murray and Anthony Ralston are just a few examples, but you can see the fruits of your labour when you’ve got so many players from the academy involved on the European stage.
“Over the years that pathway has worked well for us and the golden ticket for me is seeing these boys make their first team debut.”