Sixteen-year-old Dembele ‘gets the crowd off their feet’, says Lennon
Neil Lennon believes Celtic fans were given a “glimpse of the future” when 16-year-old Karamoko Dembele made his debut in the 2-1 win over Hearts at Parkhead.
Dembele replaced the injured Oliver Burke for the second half, with the game at 1-1 after fringe player Mikey Johnston’s early opener had been cancelled out by Jake Mulraney.
Dembele went through his repertoire of tricks to the delight of the home fans, although it was 20-year-old Johnston who drove in the winner, giving the Hoops the win which meant they finished the season nine points ahead of Rangers, before they were presented with the Ladbrokes Premiership trophy for the eighth successive season.
Interim boss Lennon said of Dembele’s cameo: “He was great to watch. He is the type of player that you want at Celtic.
“He gets the crowd off their feet with their football intelligence.
“Everyone talks about the skill, but his football intelligence was very good.
“I was delighted for him, Obviously we need to keep a lid on it, but it’s great that the fans have seen the glimpse of the future.
“It was a great time, end of the season, 45 minutes.
“The kid is 16, we know how talented he is and we just want to develop him in the right way.
“He has been training with the first team and he has had a very good season with the development team and I had no hesitation giving him 45 minutes
“There was always a plan to give him some game time, but with Burkey going off we thought we should throw him in there and let him play.”
Lennon made seven changes to the side which lost 2-0 against Rangers at Ibrox last week, with several regulars rested to get over niggles and knocks for the William Hill Scottish Cup final against the Gorgie side at Hampden Park next week, where the Hoops can clinch an unprecedented treble treble.
He said: “Filip Benkovic, Nir Bitton, Olivier Ntcham, Scott Sinclair needed game time and it was important that they played for match sharpness and fitness and all the things you get from the game today, bearing in mind that they could be involved in the final next week.”
Jambos boss Craig Levein revealed midfielder Olly Lee, who was replaced by Ryan Edwards, was a major doubt for the cup final.
The Jambos boss, whose side will go into the game with one win in nine, said: “He has twisted his knee so it doesn’t sound great.
“He wasn’t supposed to start, but Harry Cochrane got ill and I put Olly in.
“It is never good when he goes back on and comes off again.
“That is the one downside.
“I’m hoping Peter Haring, Arnaud Djoum and Uche Ikpeazu will be fit for next week.
“It wasn’t low key but I am sure there will be much more going on next week.”