Jack Aitchison lost his friends, endured near 13-hour days as a pupil at Celtic’s school of excellence and had to clean dirt off the boots at Lennoxtown after clearing up the water bottles from the side of the training pitches.
However, it has all been worth it for the remarkable youngster who, at 16 years and 71 days old, became Celtic’s youngest player of all time when he came on in last Sundays title party romp against Motherwell and scored.
He has just agreed his first professional contract, signing a three-year deal, and the level-headed teenager is determined to prove he can go all the way at Parkhead.
Aitchison said: “I have managed some sleep, a few hours anyway. The last couple of days have been mad.
“To get on and score a goal was the best feeling ever. It has still not sunk in that I have even made my debut, never mind that I scored a goal.
“I got a text on Friday night about 11.30pm that I was to train with the first-team on the Saturday and that there was a chance I would be in the squad. I was then told to meet 6.30pm at the hotel and that I had a good chance of playing.
“I had no inkling that was going to happen. I was going to go out for lunch on Saturday after training with the under-17s. That was my plan. Instead, I trained with the first-team. I thought I would be playing Partick Thistle at Barrowfield!”
Aitchison is the third graduate from Celtic’s school of excellence at St Ninian’s Academy in Kirkintilloch, near the Lennoxtown training centre, following Paul George and Stuart Findlay, leaving there just two months ago.
Living in Fauldhouse, he lost touch with local friends, as he got up at 6am, trained before and after school and then worked with his dad George in the evenings at a local park. He said: “I was lucky to have a coach who stays five minutes away, John McLaughlin, and he got me at six in the morning to travel to school.
“We trained at 7.30am, then finished at 8.45 and went to school after breakfast. After school I trained at Lennoxtown and don’t get home until 8.30 at night.
“When I moved schools I lost all my pals and, by the time I got back home, I couldn’t go out. That’s a sacrifice but it was worth it for this moment.
“Sometimes I wondered if I was doing the right thing because I would see my pals in pictures and wished I was there. But, once they see you in pictures with the league trophy and scoring, I realise that’s what I did it for.
“They all want to be pals with me again! They are all asking for my number again.”
Aitchison has been inspired by the breakthrough of Kieran Tierney but he is determined to be a star in his own right.
He said: “It was amazing to see him get in and I was over the moon when he got his chance.
“To see him start and become one of the stars, one of the main Celtic in the team I would like to be him.
“But I want to create my own footsteps. I want to be Jack but that will take a bit of time and work.
“I’ll start with the development squad again, stay grounded and train hard because I’ll need to work my way up again, what with the new manager coming in.
“My ambition is to be a striker here but, obviously, that isn’t going to be easy when you see the number there are at the club.
“But, ideally, I’d like to be one of the strikers that all the fans love.”