FEW apprenticeships appear as glamorous as the one from which Philip McTaggart has graduated to become the youngest FIFA-licensed agent in Europe. His teenage years were spent catering for the every need of the biggest names in Scottish football in beyond.

Now, aged 24, he has been given the freedom to develop his own portfolio as a partner to and nephew of John Viola, one of the most successful in a business experiencing as much turbulence as the one it helps to sustain.

McTaggart worked on a

consultancy basis after being made redundant by Scottish Amicable, and watched wide-eyed as the clients and the money came rolling in. Craig Moore, Charlie Miller and Derek Whyte et al were among the early recruits, while Barry Ferguson and Chris Sutton are the blue-chip clients.

Far from being starstruck, McTaggart became the first point of contact to meet and greet, arrange travel and accommodation, and even secure mortgage and investment advice. Little wonder he is immune to the sight of multi-millionaire celebrities sitting on the living room sofa or, on occasion, sleeping in the spare bedroom.

The interview in the family home which doubles up as an office in Bothwell is briefly interrupted as Marvin Andrews drops in with his passport,

and is promptly invited to join the photoshoot. Viola Management conducted the negotiations which will make the Trinidadian a Rangers player for next season.

Considering that the 28-year-old Christian turns only to God for advice, Viola certainly has friends in high places.

McTaggart himself negotiated Billy Gibson's move to Partick Thistle and also represents Jamie McCluskey, the Hibs midfielder who at 16 became one of the youngest to play in the Premierleague.

However, the biggest deal he was involved in, heavily as it turned out, was Barry Ferguson's (pounds) 8m move to Blackburn Rovers. As a contemporary and one-time near-neighbour of the former Rangers captain, they have forged a firm friendship. So much so that the pair will fly off on Monday for a sunshine break in Gran Canaria.

''John was away at the time and I got a call from Barry saying 'you need to help me out','' McTaggart recalled. ''So there I was, dealing with Martin Bain at one end and travelling to Blackburn with Barry to negotiate with Graeme Souness and John Williams [the Ewood Park chief executive]. John was at the end of a line, of course, but it was a mixture of excitement and stress.''

Sitting the SFA agent's exam provided the kind of stress McTaggart had not endured since leaving secondary school. ''A lot of people only see the glamorous side of dealing with football people on a daily basis, but the test was like being back at school,'' he said. ''I prepared myself properly, studied hard, and haven't needed it since.

''I didn't realise what I'd done until Gordan Petric called from Athens when he was with AEK to say I was in one of the papers there as the youngest agent in Europe,'' he said. ''Then I went to Sao Paulo with John on business, and the agents there had heard it, too. In this line of work, I suppose it is like a teenager who has signed for Rangers or Celtic

but hasn't actually done anything yet.''

Age has only occasionally been a drawback during negotiations. While some managers and chairmen have reacted sniffily to the new kid on a well populated block, others could not have been more welcoming. ''I had the honorary chairman of Rangers come up to me, after walking past everyone else, to shake my hand,'' he said. ''That was a touch of class.

''I know managers are inundated with faxes and emails about players but I am not a bullshitter or a fly-man. If I have a player to promote, I make the call, but there is no point taking up too much time with the sales pitch.''

McTaggart's girlfriend, Nicola, is expecting their first child in the next few weeks. Impending fatherhood will be another steep learning curve. ''My job is not a regular nine to five, and Nicola realises that,'' he said. ''Footballers see you as a confidant, and my phone is on 24 hours a day. Some need more attention than others. Chris [Sutton], for example, does not need constant attention, but I have spent a lot of time with Barry since his injury because it can get you down.''

It really is all in a day's work for McTaggart.