WOULD Oliver Burke have got anywhere near the Scotland squad, never mind have played and scored his first goal for the national team, without moving to Celtic on loan in the second half of last season?

Would the 6ft 2in 22-year-old be as well placed to challenge for a place in Slaven Bilic’s first team at The Hawthorns next term without spending a spell in this country in the 2018/19 campaign?

Those are the questions the hierarchy at West Brom, whose technical director Luke Dowling has delivered a scathing assessment of the treatment their player received from Neil Lennon, should be asking themselves.

It is undoubtedly true that the forward featured more regularly under Brendan Rodgers before the Northern Irishman departed for Leicester City in February than he did when Lennon took over.

But to suggest, as Dowling has, that Burke was shabbily dealt with by the Parkhead manager is nonsense.

The arrangement to take the former Nottingham Forest and RB Leipzig man north was made with Rodgers and his head of recruitment Lee Congerton back in January.


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The former Swansea City and Liverpool manager was clearly, like so many in the game, an admirer of the physical and pacey player and felt his raw talent could aid his side as they pursued a third consecutive clean sweep of trophies.

He certainly gave the Kirkcaldy-born winger cum striker plenty of game time – including in the Europa League last 32 double header against Valencia – and had his faith in repaid with some impressive displays and four goals.

It would have been interesting to see how Burke developed had Rodgers remained in charge until the season was out; Stuart Armstrong, Kristoffer Ajer, Ryan Christie, James Forrest, Callum McGregor and Kieran Tierney all benefited greatly from working under him.

The player dropped out of the side under Lennon and only got back in due to a lengthy injury list. He also had issues with his own fitness. But his demotion came after he had missed a sitter late on in a Ladbrokes Premiership game against Livingston that Celtic ended up drawing 0-0.

What was Lennon supposed to do exactly? It was his right to select what he believed was the best team available to him. He had Odsonne Edouard, Forrest, Mikey Johnston and Scott Sinclair available to him out wide.


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So he could argue that he had better options. He also had a league title and a treble to win. Failure to do either would have damaged his chances of being appointed manager on a full-time basis.

Plus, perhaps he wasn’t a fan of the player who he inherited. Maybe he felt that putting his faith in a youngster who is, despite his undoubted ability, far from the finished article was too risky in the situation he was in. Whatever the reason, he was quite entitled not to pick him every week.

Burke has played in just 21 matches since signing for West Brom in a Scottish record £15 million transfer back in 2017. At Celtic he featured in 19 games, was recalled by Scotland as a result and made three appearances for his country in their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

He started against Kazakhstan in Nursultan, came on and scored a late winner against Cyprus at Hampden earlier this month and then kicked off the meeting with Belgium, the top-placed side in the FIFA world rankings, in Brussels.

He will be a far better player for West Brom next season than he has been in the past as a result of his spell at Celtic and the West Midlands club should be grateful.