By Wayne Veysey and Pete O’Rourke
Celtic plan to fast-track Jonathan Afolabi into the first team this season after blowing Neil Lennon and his coaching staff away in training, Football Insider has learned.
The Republic of Ireland youth international, 19, was signed on a three-year deal last month after his contract at Southampton had expired.
A Celtic source has told Football Insider that Afolabi has already started to make an impression on manager Lennon, who is ready to integrate him into the senior team over the coming months.
The northern Irishman is excited by the potential of the teenage striker, and believes he can offer a different dimension to the attack.
The Celtic coaching staff have been working behind the scenes at their Lennoxtown headquarters on building up Afolabi’s fitness following his protracted exit from Southampton.
He made up his mind to leave the Premier League club at the start of the year after feeling he had outgrown Under-23s football, where he scored nine goals in 31 matches.
Afolabi is yet to be named in the Celtic squad but he is getting up to speed at the training ground and the staff believe there will be a senior role for him as the campaign progresses.
Odsonne Edouard is the undisputed first choice striker at the club and has begun the new campaign in outstanding form, but there are few alternatives who Lennon trusts to lead the line.
It is unclear what the future holds for Leigh Griffiths, who is the number two front man, while Vakoun Issouf Bayo has yet to establish himself in the first team.