CELTIC, whose defence has caused great heartache among the faithful

this season, yesterday moved to strengthen that part of the team by

signing Dumbarton's central defender Steve McCahill, a player who has

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always looked likely to better himself, for just more than #100,000.

The 22-year-old played against Celtic at Parkhead on Saturday and was

one of the reasons Dumbarton held out for 80 minutes of a Scottish Cup

third-round tie before finally losing 2-0.

His performance, in fact, was described as outstanding and yesterday

Billy McNeill admitted: ''Saturday did have a bearing, but I've been

watching Steve since he was a young man.''

There is no doubt McNeill believes the player, who stands half an inch

over the 6ft mark and was capped by Scotland at basketball when he was a

16-year-old, could reach new heights. ''He has to adjust to the demands

of full-time football, but I think he has a chance of making the grade

here,'' added McNeill.

McCahill, who passed a medical yesterday, still has to inform his

employers -- he is a storeman -- that he will be leaving, which means he

can't begin his new life immediately. ''I was brought into discussions

only on Monday night,'' he said. ''This move fulfils a boyhood dream.''

He recalled that he almost became a St Etienne player five years ago,

but the move from Boghead fell through and there must have been

occasions when he thought he was destined to remain in the game's lower

reaches. ''It's worked out all right now, though,'' he said.

Although this is not the most spectacular signing Celtic have made, a

truth readily admitted by McNeill, that is no reason to downgrade

McCahill. If he becomes as successful as a previous buy from Dumbarton,

Murdo MacLeod, no one on the terracings will complain.

COWDENBEATH manager John Brownlie yesterday signed 23-year-old

midfield player John Wright from Raith Rovers for a small fee.

Picture: IAN HOSSACK