Shaun Maloney, 17, made a striking debut for the champions at Ibrox. Where does he go from here asks Darryl Broadfoot

CELTIC allowed another glimpse of the burgeoning youth system that bubbles under the belly of the first team at the weekend, with the bombastic Shaun Maloney the latest to roll off the production line.

The striker made a memorable debut in the intimidating intensity of an Ibrox derby and, had it not been for his over-eagerness to impress, might have capped a remarkable ascent with a goal. Maloney's performance during his 24 minutes of fame was sufficient to ignite an already glowing away support, while his pace and peskiness prompted Jorg Albertz to take a petulant swipe which was borne out of frustration.

It is certain we will be seeing more of Maloney before the season is out and already it is understood Martin O'Neill has assured the 17-year-old of a start alongside half-century Henrik against Hibernian on Sunday.

Two try-outs with the top team, let alone performing in front of the Sky cameras, is more exposure than the Malaya-born youngster could have dreamed of after only two starts in the under-21 squad, adding a third appearance yesterday against St Johnstone.

He was first spotted by the Celtic youth scout, George Adams, four years ago playing for a boys club near his family home in Aberdeen and after being introduced to the development network moved south to Glasgow in 1999 to further his footballing education.

His stature and style is reminiscent of John Spencer when he first emerged on the scene across the city in the late 1980s, overcoming a lack of physical presence with a beaver-like work ethic.

However, it is often dangerous to become carried away with early promise, as has been proved with the enigma that is Mark Burchill. Now on the cusp of full-blown adulthood, the sometimes Scotland internationalist - although more often with the under-21 side than Craig Brown's seniors - has reached a career crossroads after Parkhead proved to be a dead end.

The striker's financial demands frightened off Trevor Francis, who was keen to offer him a diversion to English division one after a successful loan spell. He is currently on short-term lease to Ipswich town, but while they harbour hopes of appearing in the Champions League less than a year after

topping the Nationwide League, Burchill cuts a frustrated figure on George Burley's bench.

It is likely he will return to Celtic upon the English season's conclusion but already it has been made perfectly clear by O'Neill that he is not part of his plans. He has not progressed as Celtic had hoped and, indeed, expected and there is a feeling among the coaching staff that being given too much, too soon has affected Burchill's willingness to learn.

There are other recent cases of unfulfilled potential at Parkhead, although that accusation cannot be levelled at the likes of Stephen Crainey, Jamie Smith, and Colin Healy, who have all excelled at various stages of the season. Kenny Dalglish's decision to go with the kids for the last match of his spell in interim management, the 3-0 victory against Dundee United last May, might have been little more than appeasement to the angry supporters but of the eight untried youngsters used, few have been unable to attain use the experience as a springboard.

Eric Black, assistant to John Barnes during his ill-fated regime, does not anticipate a similar scenario arising with Maloney.

''It is important at this stage for Shaun to keep his feet on the ground, but, from my experience, of dealing with the lad, he is level headed enough to succeed.''

The young bhoys: where are

they now?

JAMES GOODWIN (18): Yet to appear in the first-team this season and although a regular in the under-21 side, the defender's contract expires in the summer and the likelihood is that a new one will not be forthcoming.

JOHN KENNEDY (16): Used sparingly in the under-18s but scored two goals recently against St Johnstone youths and still regarded as one for the future.

BRIAN McCOLLIGAN (19): On-loan at Stenhousemuir, where he has not been a regular, and another whose departure from Parkhead is imminent.

MARK FOTHERINGHAM (16): Second only to Maloney in terms of under-18 appearances and Martin O'Neill has been impressed by the bulky defender.

RYAN McCANN (18): Midfielder has overcome a disappointing start to the season in the but a bright career at Celtic is anticipated.

LIAM MILLER (19): Made his European debut against Jeunesse Esch but progress has been hampered by injury.

SIMON LYNCH (17): Striker has succumbed to growing pains, limiting him to just four appearances for the under-21s. Should be back to full fitness for pre-season.

PAUL SHIELDS (18): Recently returned from a loan spell with Albion Rovers but, like McColligan, has regressed.