Kennedy urges the Academy Bhoys to prove the real Deila

BRING on the Bhoys … that will be the call to new Celtic boss, Ronny Deila, when he sits down to assess the strength in depth of the squad he has inherited from Neil Lennon.

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Liam Henderson has had the benefit of first-team action for Celtic at the youthful age of 17
Liam Henderson has had the benefit of first-team action for Celtic at the youthful age of 17

The man who rebuilt Stromsgodset from a club battling bankruptcy and relegation to Norwegian champions faces a completely different set of challenges at Parkhead.

Deila is only too aware the Hoops have won the title for the last three seasons - last time around by 29 points - and are already unbackable to make it four in a row.

Indeed, bookies are cautiously pricing up 5-2 against Celtic setting a new record of 10 in a row.

So, with the 2014-15 fixtures scheduled to be released on Wednesday, the favourite game for Hoops fans will not be searching for matches against the likes of Motherwell and Aberdeen, and planning their trips to Dingwall and Inverness, but trying to guess how early they might see their heroes cross the finishing line.

They did it with seven games to spare last time, clinching the title at Firhill on March 26.

Seventeen-year-old Liam Henderson was one of the scorers against Thistle that night.

And, given Deila's penchant for bringing through rising stars - such as Martin Odegaard, who was given his debut at Stromsgodset while still only 15 - the indications are the kids bubbling under in Chris McCart's flourishing Academy at Parkhead will find opportunity is about to knock.

Lennon had a good track record of promoting from within. Indeed, 18-year-old James Forrest was given his chance within weeks of Lennon replacing Tony Mowbray as interim manager in 2010.

Since then, the likes of Darnell Fisher, Tony Watt, Filip Twardzik, Bahrudin Atajic, Marcus Fraser, John Herron, Eoghan O'Connell, Joe Chalmers, Lewis Toshney, Calvin Miller and, of course, Henderson, have all been handed their first-team debuts.

That's a trend which Deila is expected not only to continue, but to extend.

And, when the squad report back for pre-season training a week on Tuesday, he will be as keen to run the rule over the players in the Development Squad and youth teams as he will be to work with the likes of top-team pillars Scott Brown, Kris Commons and Charlie Mulgrew.

One of the men waiting to provide some background on the kids for fame is Under-20s coach John Kennedy.

The former defender knows what it takes - in terms of skill, character and mental strength - to make the step up, having been given his big chance by Kenny Dalglish 14 years ago while still a raw teenager.

Kennedy also knows how it can all be snatched away from you, his horrific knee injury sustained while playing for Scotland bringing his career to a premature end.

As one of the few backroom staff still in situ, Kennedy could find himself spending a lot of time being heavily leaned on by Deila.

And the man who, along with Stevie Frail, has steered the Under-20s to five league titles in successive years will certainly be beating the drum for giving youth a chance.

The series of low-key warm-up matches which have been arranged while the Hoops are at their training camp in Austria - they head off at the end of the month -will provide the ideal opportunity for the youngsters to stake their claim.

Having watched several of them - including Henderson - impress when given game time in Antalya Cup games against Trabzonspor and Galatasaray during the mid-season break in January, Kennedy is excited at the prospect of seeing how far they have developed.

He will also be keen to see how loan spells have improved the likes of Atajic, Chalmers, Watt, Callum McGregor and Jackson Irvine.

Kennedy said: "The new manager has said a lot of positive things about the development of young players, and his track record shows he likes to bring young players into the first team.

"That gives everyone at Academy level a lift, so everyone will be looking forward to the pre-season knowing the opportunity is there to get a couple of games."

However, Kennedy has warned the kids must appreciate that such chances do not come around every day, and players must be ready to reach out and grab them when they do.

"It's up to them to take that opportunity," said the man who works alongside Frail to ensure the conveyor belt of talent which the club needs to see for its multi-million-pound investment in its Academy continues.

The appointment of Deila is certainly good news for aspiring stars.

Had Roy Keane accepted the chance to follow in Lennon's footsteps, it might have been a very different scenario as the former Manchester United captain does not have a notable history of promoting from the youth ranks, preferring instead to go out and buy in ready-made players.

Deila is a different kettle of fish altogether.

At Stromsgodset, a combination of having little money to spend and a personal desire to help players develop ensured he was an advocate of looking within for the next big thing.

However, it is not just the kids who should see this as a door opening.

Even more established players, Teemu Pukki, Amido Balde, Derk Boerrigter, Tom Rogic, Watt and others who have yet to get going, including Holmbert Fridjonsson, will feel this can be a fresh start.

"The track record of the manager shows that, if the players are good enough, they will get the opportunity to get there," said Kennedy.

"They all want to make a good impression, and I think everyone will have the opportunity to impress the manager. It's up to the first-team guys and the young players to, hopefully, take that opportunity."

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