OLIVER BURKE has joined Celtic on loan from West Brom for the rest of the season, subject to a medical.
The 21-year-old forward, who has twice been Scotland’s most-expensive player, signed for the Baggies on a five-year deal from RB Leipzig for a reported £15 million fee in 2017, but has not started a league match this season.
He will join up with Brendan Rodgers’ squad this week for their winter training camp in Dubai.
West Brom’s sporting and technical director, Luke Dowling, said: “To be fair to Oli, there have been a lot of changes at the club since his arrival which have not helped him.
“The opportunity to join a club of Celtic’s stature on loan was felt by everyone to be the best pathway to help develop his career.
“Oli liked what Celtic had to offer, and he has got the opportunity to play on a great stage, which should benefit him.
“I would stress that there is no ‘option to buy’ clause at the end of the loan, and he will be back with us at the end of the season.
“We will be keeping a close eye on his progress and still believe that in Oli, we have a talented player who we are anxious to develop and progress.”
With one signing secured, Brendan Rodgers has revealed a range of options are being considered – both in and out.
“We know the importance of the January window so let’s see where we go,” said Rodgers.
“We know the players we want to get and the areas we need to strengthen. Let’s see what we can do.
“I think there will be some players who go out. They need to get games, and then we will want to get some in just to help the group in the second half of the season.
“We’ve had a number of loan inquiries, and we have had conversations with the guys we feel it would benefit to go out and play. So it’s a case of seeing what comes both ways.
“For all the players, there is a plan, and we talk regularly in terms of what is going to be in their best interests and the interests of the club.”
The perfect example of the strategy in operation, Rodgers argued, has been the development of Ryan Christie, with the 23-year-old now shining for Celtic and Scotland after loan spells with Aberdeen.
“At the time I came in Ryan was slight. He wasn’t physical so we had to ask what was going to be best for him,” Rodgers continued.
“Say he is with us but not playing.
“Yes, he will develop in the training, but what is it that he actually needs? He was not 18, 19. You’re talking 21 or 22.
“Okay, maturation can come a bit later but it still might need something else.
“I have been used to that over many years, that development cycle, and I’ve sat with players and their agents trying to work out the best solution.
“There are plusses and minuses to staying in the same league.
“It can be a total change of scene but getting the right club is important.
“Ryan went to Derek (McInnes at Aberdeen).
“I had a good relationship with Derek and I knew the type of work he would give him in terms of his game and focus.
“Aberdeen is also a club where you are expected to win, so the pressure was there.
“We knew he would get the physicality and the growth mentally of playing week in, week out and feeling that pressure.
“Align that with a physical programme, then when he comes back in, the big challenge is fitting in a position, allied to how we play.
“Constant communication with the players is important.
“They need to know you are watching.
“We had a scout at virtually every game Ryan was playing so that we could feed back the information to him.
“We had contact, either through myself or the coaches, in addition to the sports science team.
“So he always felt there was that connection with the club.
“But, at the same time, Ryan still had to do it himself and had to have the belief that one day all the work you are doing will pay off.
“And then actually when it comes, you really grasp that opportunity. And Ryan has done that absolutely brilliantly.
“Now he is a full international player and looks like, over the course of a number of years, he will push on.
“So it’s a great measure of how a loan can really work.”