AS the head of an academy that has provided a steady stream of talent to the Celtic first-team for over a decade, both enhancing the starting XI and handsomely swelling the club’s coffers, Chris McCart doesn’t seem too comfortable in accepting plaudits.

Instead, he would rather credit others for the success of Celtic’s youth development, such as manager Neil Lennon and his coaching staff, and hold up shining examples for the current crop cutting their teeth at Lennoxtown to follow.

Kieran Tierney may be the most obvious poster boy for Celtic’s academy process given his recent success at Arsenal, and a worthy one at that, but for McCart, there are two men who are integral to the success of youth development at the club.

It is the buy-in from the men at the top, manager Neil Lennon and club captain Scott Brown, that makes producing top talent like Tierney possible, a sentiment he is sure that the £25m left-back would echo.

“From his time within the academy to his time in the first-team, Kieran replicated a lot of what Scott Brown was doing in terms of training,” McCart said. “He is a no-nonsense guy who loves hard work.

“It’s not always been a smooth path for him. He’s had some disappointments and he’s coped with them and come back stronger.

“Each player is different, but he is one that all the academy players can look at him and see that if they are grounded and have that humility about them, it will stand them in really good stead when they get to a first-team environment.

“That’s what the captain demands, that’s what the manager demands.

“The way Kieran has been shaped comes from his family right through to our first team, so there are a lot of influences there that should take credit for how well he has turned out as a person and a player.

“At Celtic, you have to win every game and you know the demands. James Forrest and Callum McGregor have gone through that process, and Kieran prior to that before the big move with the transfer fee as well, it gives these young players brilliant role models to look up to.

“Scott Brown is pivotal, because he holds the dressing room, he dictates the training, but you can see the leadership in Callum and James now as well with the younger ones.

“I’ve been thinking about this recently. KT is getting a lot of plaudits down in England, but how do you put a value on the contribution of a Callum McGregor or a James Forrest and the years of service they have given the club?

“The valuable goals, the titles, the Champions League moments. They are a real credit.”

McCart talks often about the pathway that Celtic have introduced for each player to follow, which if they can stick to, will hopefully lead them into the first team.

But he says the buy-in from manager Lennon has been crucial in putting that across to the young prospects, with his presence in the stand at each reserve match a visual reminder that their work isn’t going unnoticed.

“That is one thing about our manager, he is brilliant at giving opportunities,” he said.

“When he started at Celtic after he retired, he was reserve team coach. James Forrest was just one that he took a real interest in. He’s always took a real strong interest in young players at whatever club he has managed. He’s passionate about it.

“Our manager goes to every reserve game, and there’s not a lot of managers who do that. He’ll come to Cappielow in the wettest night in the winter, he’ll go wherever he has to because he just loves watching them playing and performing.

“We’re very fortunate with John Kennedy coming through that system before and with Gavin Strachan doing the extra sessions with the young players each day after the first-team have finished.”

McCart wasn’t surprised therefore to see Lennon name a Celtic team including Stephen Welsh, Ewan Henderson, Scott Robertson and Karamoko Dembele when they came up against a strong Lyon side on their pre-season tour of France recently.

“Though they were playing against a Champions League level team with a nucleus of young players, the manager would be instilling into them that they should be competing, they should be winning,” he said. “He won’t accept that they are playing against a top team and allow them to accept defeat.

“That’s what they need at this stage in their development. It’s brilliant for them. He will want them to go and show what they have got.

“We’re really crying out in development for a way to bridge that gap between the academy and the first-team, and the manager does that by using them in these friendly games.

“Each pre-season our young players get an opportunity. Before we put players out on loan, we always wait until the pre-season games are over and we start the European run.

“Obviously, this year is a little bit different, but every year our young players have been given that opportunity.

“It’s great to get the feedback from the first-team staff on how they conduct themselves while they are away, whether they have got that humility, are they helping out with the kit or are they getting carried away a little bit? It gives us a good insight into the young players as part of their development.

“There’s nothing better for them to go and play alongside Scott Brown or Callum McGregor now, who has progressed up. You learn from their training, from their diet, and you pick up really good habits when you are away.

“The fitness levels are better when they come back to with the intensity at which our first-team train, so there are a lot of positives."

McCart hopes that these youngsters will now look to replicate Mikey Johnston in taking that next step into being a regular around the top-team squad, a player he feels would have even more than the 62 appearances he has had it not been for injury.

“Michael Johnston has been really unfortunate,” he said. “He’s had real exceptional spells with the first-team and has over 50 appearances. He now needs that regular run and that bit of luck to go with it.

“I think Michael is very talented, and he’s very hard-working as well. He has that humility, he listens, and he is very grounded.

“All young players go through a phase of making their debut, their contracts increase and they go through different lifestyle changes, but when their maturity kicks in, they realise it’s about a love of football, wanting to win things and wanting to be the very best.

“All players go through that process. Michael has been through it and done really well.

“He can eliminate a player the same way that James can, and there aren’t enough players in the game that can do that. And that’s what fans want to see.

“He’s also got the strong professionalism to back that up as well.”