Does Walsall fans' praise suggest loanee Eoghan O'Connell deserves Celtic chance?

Celtic Manager Brendan Rodgers

The defender's Celtic contract expires at the end of the season - but his impressive performances at Walsall won't have gone unnoticed.

Eoghan O'Connell scores the first goal for Celtic

When a manager thrusts his teenage defender in at the deep end against the Barcelona of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar on European club football’s biggest stage, it’s clear that he holds a great deal of potential.

In total, 21-year-old centre-back Eoghan O’Connell featured seven times for Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic in the first half of the season. Although he may not thank the Northern Irishman for handing him 22 minutes at the end of that 7-0 thrashing at the Camp Nou in September.

And O’Connell’s January loan move to League One outfit Walsall, far from signifying the end of his opportunities at Celtic Park, seemed a chance for him to gain more first-team experience before fighting for his place with the champions next season - provided he earns a new contract with his current deal expiring in the summer.

In fact, Rodgers confirmed as much to the Irish News earlier in the campaign. And, so far, the decision has gone to plan.

Walsall may be ten points adrift of the play-off places in the third tier but O’Connell’s consistent performances have endeared him to the Saddlers’ supporters.

He’s started 13 games in League One, helping the club to four assists and impressing with his distribution and presence in the backline.

Therefore, with Kolo Toure (below) phased out and Erik Sviatchenko likely to be targeted by Premier League clubs again, you wonder whether O’Connell could be handed another opportunity by Rodgers next season.

Celtic's Kolo Toure in action

If the praise of Walsall fans is anything to go by, coupled with their concern over his recent hamstring injury, the youngster may be ready to step up and earn an extended stay at Celtic.

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