Exclusive: McNamara delivers verdict on Dembele debut for Celtic v Hearts


Jackie McNamara has hailed Karamoko Dembele for grasping his first team opportunity in Celtic’s 2-1 win over Hearts on Sunday.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the Hoops legend claimed the 16-year-old made an “exciting start” on his debut in front of a packed Parkhead.

Dembele was introduced as a half-time substitute in place of Oliver Burke as Celtic played a weakened side with seven changes as they rested stars ahead of the Scottish Cup final next week.

“Yeah I thought it was an exciting start, I think it helps coming on in this game, everybody’s looking, wishing him to do well,” McNamara told Football Insider. “Half-time, it’s a big introduction, he’s up against wee boy [Aaron] Hickey who I thought had a really good game at 16 as well for Hearts, the young left back.

“He showed a good bit of skill and got away from him and the lad got booked for it. It’s great experience, at 16 years old to get the opportunity like that, in front of a big crowd, it will stand him in good stead for the future.”

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Asked if the 16-year-old is ready to play regular first-team football, McNamara said: “I don’t know, it just depends really, that’s the thing, if it’s Neil or someone else who comes in.

“Do they think he’s ready to push or just have a taste of it or keep him around the reserves or round the first team as experience and see how he handles it?

“We’ll not know that until after pre-season when it’s set in place and that remains to be seen, if it’s a new manager or not.

“I think you always want young talent, it’s something that I always liked working with, young talent, give them the opportunity at 16, it’s a big opportunity to get a chance.”

Celtic celebrated lifting their eighth consecutive league title by winning through a Mikey Johnston double.

The win took Celtic on to 87 points, nine clear of Rangers, while Hearts ended the season in sixth, on 51 points.

In other Celtic news, it can be REVEALED that the club have made an approach to sign a left-sided flyer and he wants to join.