WHEN Jeremie Frimpong and Lee O'Connor completed moves to Parkhead on deadline day of the summer transfer window, it was the latter and not the former who was initially tipped to make the bigger impact at first-team level.

Already a seasoned operator in the Ireland under-21s ranks, O'Connor arrived from Manchester United with some pedigree before being capped by the senior squad in November last year in what was remarkbly his first-ever taste of men's football. Frimpong, meanwhile, had two under-19 caps for the Dutch under his belt and was more of an unknown prospect.

Since the two players arrived, it is fair to say that the career trajectories of the two defenders has been somewhat different. Frimpong has muscled his way into the starting XI at Parkhead while O'Connor was shipped out on loan to Partick Thistle in January.

Frimpong's rise has been rapid at Celtic Park. Already a fan favourite, his lightning pace and endearing enthusiasm has captured the hearts of many supporters and the full-back has thrived in an attacking role in defence, being given license to maraud up the right flank.


First-team coach John Kennedy admits that Frimpong was initially seen as a prospect for the future rather than an immediate first-choice right-back but after the 19-year-old continually impressed in training, Lennon and the rest of his coaching staff felt they had no choice but to throw him into the starting XI. It is a decision, Kennedy says, that has reaped immediate rewards.

"It’s been a big plus for us," Kennedy told the Celtic View podcast. "Jeremie came in for us as a young player with talent, but in terms of coming of coming in and being around the squad initially to get a feel for it, and then build him up to hopefully become in the future an important player for us.

"But, to be fair, it was one where, over a period of weeks, and seeing him on a daily basis, he kept impressing. He kept showing what he was about. He’s very determined, he’s got terrific pace and what fans were seeing in the games, we were seeing on a regular basis in training.

"And I remember there was just one day when myself, the manager and Damien [Duff] were talking at the side of the training pitch, and it was a case of we’re just going to have to put him in, we can’t hold him back any longer, and that’s what happened basically.

"That’s how he got himself in the team and it was through how he was training and the impression he was making within that. Forget about his age, or the size of him or anything else. What he can offer and the ability he has was just too much to hold back.


"You get that with young players. There comes a time, and you can sense it, where you’re going to have to put them in, whether that’s an appearance here or there, or right, okay, just put him in and see how he goes."

It is an opportunity that Frimpong grasped and he has refused to relinquish his grip since. The then 18-year-old put in a man-of-the-match display against Partick Thistle in the League Cup in September on his debut for the club, before following that up with a stellar showing against Ross County a month later and a first Celtic goal against Aberdeen at Pittodrie in his third game for the Parkhead club.

Kennedy says that Lennon and his coaching team are impressed with the young defender's work ethic and determination that is on display during every training session at Lennoxtown, but insisted that there is still more to come from the precocious talent.

"The manager had great faith in Jeremie,” Kennedy added. "He identified quickly that we had to give him the opportunity and then see how he develops and progresses, and he’s never looked back. And he’s been an important player for us in the games he’s played.

"Every day he’s the exact same. He doesn’t change who he is. He’s very real, there’s no falseness about him, and he’s very bubbly and a great character to have around, and he’s a very good trainer.


"He’s still got a lot to do. He’s young and naïve at times, and there have been some of the bigger games with positioning and things, and little things where he maybe loses concentration, but you forget how young he is, and as much as he’s got so much to offer, being a young player he’s still got a lot to do as well.

"But he knows that. He’s one where we’ve got regular contact with, and we chat to him about things, and we work on things, but the ability he has, and the natural and physical elements of his game that he offers, he’s only going to get better and better.

"So the more games he plays, the more he works with us, hopefully he keeps developing and who knows where that may lead to."