Less than two years ago, the 18-year-old Hibs star was released from Hearts’ youth set up and was trying to figure out whether his football career was over. But a spot of work experience and his intrinsic lust for the game stirred a resilience in him that gained him a second chance at Hibs and has powered his accelerated promotion through the ranks.
“As a young player it is awful. It is not a good thing to go through. When I was released I was down because football was all I wanted to do but my dad helped me through that time and he always believed I had the ability to go and be the best I could be and that helped.
“I was still at school at the time so going to school with my pals helped take my mind off things and I was playing football every day, in PE and after school, so I just fell back in love with the game, really.”
An introduction to what life could be like without the sport helped and is the reason he is not getting carried away with all the current interest in him.
“I was on Twitter and I scrolled down and saw my name. It was, ‘oh, what’s going on here?’! It’s madness, I can’t get over it. But it’s cool, it’s good to see, and all my pals were sending it to me. It’s good to know that all the hard work I’m putting in is getting me attention from the big clubs.
“I think that’s everyone’s goal [to follow Andy Roberston, Kieran Tierney and John McGinn into the Premier League], definitely, but I’m just keeping my head down and trying to get as many games as possible this season.
“I’m trying not to take anything for granted because two years ago I was getting released from a club - and now I’m here. I can’t let anything distract me, I just need to keep pushing forward.
“When I was released I was working for my mum and my dad, to give me a bit of work experience. I was working Friday with my dad at his work and then Saturday with my mum to try to get a bit of money. It was 9-5 and it was draining.
"My mum is a secretary and my dad is an IT manager. At my mum’s work, I was shredding paper and filing and at my dad’s I was stocking shelves. I knew I needed to have something to fall back on if football wasn’t going to work out. But, I’ve always been football daft and had a ball at my feet. I always knew that I would do what I needed to do and going into mum and dad’s work kind of gave me a shake. I was like ‘do you really want to be working in an office for the rest of your life?’ It gave me that drive to put even more effort into my football. I always try to work harder than everyone else.”
Level-headed, he is able to put that difficult period into perspective and channel the emotions positively.
“It is a lesson for everyone. If you get released at that age, it’s nothing, you can still do it. I was tall, lanky and had nothing on me - I’ve still got nothing on me now, well, maybe a bit more – but I was still in the middle of developing.”
That development has been huge, physically, mentally and in all areas of his game as he was transformed from a centre-back to left-back.
He has studied his game, worked hard on his composure and practiced crosses to ensure he remains a threat to rivals and a tempting proposition for anyone seeking a young fullback. Impressive in his 20 appearances so far, some aspects of his play come naturally.
"I like to run and I've got a lot of energy, so I have to use it somehow. I was the same when I was younger – I'd go chasing the ball when it went off the pitch, even if it wasn't our throw in!
"I've tried to bring as much of that to my game as possible. I’ve worked on my crossing and getting a wee bit more composure on the ball. At the start of the season, I was a bit too rushed and too eager to impress. Now I'm trying to bring a calmness to my game. I don't want to look like an 18-year-old who is trying to impress. I want to look like a more mature player."
Wise beyond his years and willing to absorb the useful advice he gets from family, coaches and the experienced professionals around about him each day – when they are not winding him up about his star-studded suitors – there seems little doubt that his future lies far away from the football scrapheap he was once dumped on.
He believes that now too but his composed maturity means he is willing to bide his time, continue evolving and wait for the right opportunity. That patience is Hibs’ gain.
"There's been a fair few slatings coming my way about the speculation, but it's all good. I know how far I've come but you can never rest on that. I want to go as far as I can and there is speculation but I'm just playing football and training and not really looking at anything else. What's for me won't go by me. I love coming in here every day. It's a dream come true being a professional footballer. It's still not really hit me that I am one."