Greg Taylor, Celtic’s deadline-day signing from Kilmarnock, will have his work cut out displacing Boli Bolingoli in Neil Lennon’s starting XI.
The Belgian, who joined from Rapid Vienna for £3 million in July, had been criticised for his early performances for the Hoops, but turned in an impressive display in last weekend’s 2-0 win over Rangers at Ibrox.
If earning a place in his club’s first-team will be a challenge, then starting regularly for Steve Clarke’s Scotland looks like mission impossible, with captain Andy Robertson the first-pick for the role, and Kieran Tierney right behind him.
But Lee Clark, the manager who gave Taylor his big break at Rugby Park, is convinced he can be a regular for both club and country.
“I’d been impressed when I watched him for Kilmarnock’s Under-20s, and I wanted to see if he could handle playing for the first-team,” Clark recalled.
“So I handed him his debut in our final league game of the 2015/16 season against Dundee United.
“We were already condemned to the play-offs, so it was a dead rubber. But Greg showed up well.
“I left him out of the first leg of the play-off Final and we lost 1-0 at Falkirk. But I brought him back for the return leg, he was different class, and we won 4-0.
“He stayed in the side from that day on.
“At the start of the following season, we were at home to Rangers on a Friday night. The game was live on TV and Joey Barton was playing for them.
“He had this reputation as a hard man, and came up to Scotland saying he was going to be the best player in the Premiership.
“Greg went in hard on him and was sent off.
“Now, as a manager, you don’t want to see your players being red-carded. But that typified Greg.
“No matter how big someone’s reputation was, he was never fazed by them.
“It’s also worth pointing out that he hasn’t been sent off since then.
“Funnily enough, I always assumed that he’d be on Celtic’s radar if Kieran Tierney ever did leave.
“I keep in touch with Greg, and I called him when he won his first Scotland cap – I thought he was brilliant in Belgium that night – and again when his move to Celtic went through.
“It’s a big challenge for him to get into their first-team, and an even bigger one to stay there.
“He won’t be overawed by being at a big club, though, and he’ll cope with the unbelievable pressure of playing in front of fans who expect you to win every single game.
“I’ve no doubt that he’ll become an automatic starter for Neil.”
Clark, now in charge of Blyth Spartans, also backs the 21 year old to become a regular for Steve Clarke, who also worked with him at Kilmarnock.
“Andy Robertson is one of the best in the business, and another example of someone who’s had to bounce back from adversity after Celtic let him go,” Clark continued.
“He’s flying after winning the Champions League with Liverpool, and I can’t wait to see Tierney play for Arsenal because I loved watching him when he was at Celtic.
“But Greg will be looking at them, and he’ll look to learn from the pair of them.
“He’ll be asking himself how he gets to their level, and doing everything he can to get there.
“He’ll fight them all the way and I wouldn’t bet against him.
“I watched all of Kilmarnock’s live games on television after I left the club, and I could see him grow with each passing month.
“He’s a great lad and I’m looking forward to seeing him progress even further.”