Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor fulfilled every young Hoops fan’s dream in the summer as the academy product was named club captain by Ange Postecoglou.
The 28-year-old, who was born in Glasgow, has played almost 340 matches for Celtic in all competitions throughout his career after progressing through the youth ranks and is now leading the team out every week.
McGregor has set an example for all of the young players coming up through the youth system at Celtic and could inspire others to step up and make their mark in the first team. One player who is on his way to following in the skipper’s footsteps is defender Stephen Welsh.
The 21-year-old centre-back has made his breakthrough into the first team in 2021 and established himself as a serious contender for the starting XI after coming into the fold in the 2020/21 campaign. His emergence came at the perfect time for Celtic as Kristoffer Ajer’s exit from the club loomed.
The Norwegian was touted with an exit from Parkhead in the January transfer window before eventually departing to join Premier League side Brentford for £14.13m in the summer. This left a large hole in the Celtic defence and Welsh has helped to fill it.
In January 2021, Transfermarkt valued the young defender at a measly £180,000 as he was still making his name at senior level. Welsh went on to start 15 Premiership matches in the 2020/21 season, averaging an impressive SofaScore rating of 7.04 as Celtic kept seven clean sheets in those matches.
At the time of writing, Welsh is now valued at £1.08m by Transfermarkt. This is a 500% market value increase since January, highlighting his rise into the senior squad under Neil Lennon and now Postecoglou.
This season, the defensive powerhouse has averaged an excellent score of 7.17 in four Premiership starts. He has won 56% of his duels on the pitch whilst making 2.5 clearances and 1.8 tackles and interceptions combined per game, with Celtic keeping two clean sheets in those four matches as he shows why he deserves his market value increase.
Meanwhile, Ajer averaged a rating of 7.15 in the Premiership last term for the Hoops. This suggests that Welsh has been able to make the step up from the academy side and produce a similar standard of performances to the 23-year-old at centre-back, which has lessened the impact of the Norwegian’s exit.
Welsh solved a key issue for Celtic by stepping up and making himself a reliable first team option for Ange Postecoglou to call upon following Ajer’s sale. He is now competing with Cameron Carter-Vickers and Carl Starfelt for a place in the starting XI and will hopefully establish himself as a regular starter before the end of the campaign.