Neil Lennon handed a senior debut to Stephen Welsh against Hamilton on Sunday as Celtic ran out 4-1 winners in a nervy encounter.
The 20-year-old defender spent the first half of the season on loan at Greenock Morton in the Scottish second tier, but he recently returned to his parent club.
With Lennon persisting with a relatively new-look 3-5-2 formation, Welsh, who played 13 games at right-back during his loan spell this season, was handed the opportunity to slot into the defensive trio.
Playing on the right side of the back three, with Christopher Jullien on the left and Kristoffer Ajer through the middle, Welsh played for 76 minutes and impressed throughout proceedings before he was substituted for Tom Rogic.
And it seems the young defender impressed The Athletic’s Kieran Devlin.
In his post-match Q&A, the Celtic correspondent delivered a glowing verdict on his display and suggested his qualities are synonymous with those of a modern day centre-back.
“Welsh was very good, what I liked about him was his agility and reading of the game. Very intelligent and modern defender, not just a bruiser.”
Sterner defensive tests are looming on the horizon for Welsh but this was a display of genuine quality.
Showcasing maturity and composure in the defensive unit, the academy graduate vindicated his manager’s decision to include him from the outset and his performance will certainly give his manager confidence moving forward.
Naturally, Jozo Simunovic appears likely to take Welsh’s place when he returns from his latest injury setback, which Lennon confirmed would keep him out for a week or two after he was forced off at half-time against St Johnstone, but the youngster should represent a trustworthy backup option in the event of injury or suspension to one of the senior defenders.
It’s too early to make a concrete judgement on Welsh just yet but, as Devlin alluded to in his verdict, this was a performance full of promise for the future given his suitability to the modern game.