It is a reflection of the situation at Celtic right now that one of their best regarded prospects had to travel across the city to win a start in the Premiership. Yet, when it came for Aidan Nesbitt the other night as a loan recruit for Partick Thistle, he proved assured enough to suggest there is something about the boy.
That was true both on and off the pitch. The 19-year-old covets the No 10 role… but then so do a shedload of players permanently on Celtic’s books. Nesbitt is not fazed by that, or what might be read into his being farmed out to a side he helped move up the table with Tuesday’s 2-0 win at home to St Johnstone.
“All I can do is play games and, hopefully, do well enough to stay in Thistle’s team,” he said. “Then, when I go back to Celtic, I need to take my chance when it comes along. I’ve just signed a four-and-a-half year contract and that wouldn’t have been on the table if I wasn’t in their thoughts. I think that speaks for itself.
“It had got to the stage where first-team football was a priority for me and, with more players coming into the club, myself and Ronny Deila both thought it was best for me to go out on loan. When I got the option to join a club playing in the top division, it was obviously the right thing for me to do. The players at Firhill have been brilliant with me. Everyone has been brand new; they’re a great bunch of boys. It’s been a long wait for my debut since I came to the club but the postponements have been hard on everyone. On the other hand, there will now be quite a few matches coming up and I’m hoping to feature in as many of them as possible.
“I enjoyed myself against St Johnstone – I hadn’t played for three weeks so it was a good 80 minutes for me, although I was feeling it a bit towards the end. At the start I was wide on the left and it was hard for me to get into the game but when I moved inside I felt more comfortable and I settled down.”
So much so, Nesbitt became confident enough to give full-vent to his ball-playing abilities. That included demanding passes and spraying one 40 yards with the outside of his foot to roars of approval from the Firhill faithful.
“Ever since I was a kid I’ve just wanted to entertain people and, hopefully, I can keep doing that,” he added. “I like to attack and I like to do things that are more extravagant than other players would do. I’d like to think that I can bring that here. You can’t do anything if you don’t have the ball, especially if you’re an attacking player. I need to get on it to show what I can do.
“It was a different level from the under-20s but it’s a step up I feel that I’m more than ready to take because I’ve been playing development football for two seasons now. This move has come at the right time for me and I felt at ease out there. The physicality is something I need to deal with and I am pretty aggressive anyway, although I do need to get stronger. That will come with time, though.”
That the teenager is an old head on young shoulders might be given away by the fact that he once told Celtic media his favourite song was The Four Seasons’ December 1963, which he knew from hearing repeatedly on station-of-choice Smooth radio. Nesbitt might still have braces but he has no problem getting his teeth into the topic du jour that is development leagues – which Rangers manager Mark Warburton has repeatedly dismissed as not meaningful enough to help young players learn the demands of senior football. The Ibrox manager has favoured loan deals for his young players to aid their schooling while Nesbitt now thinks helping Thistle push for top-six status will be for his betterment but he believes development football still has its place.
“At Celtic we play at a very high standard. We take part in the Uefa Youth League and we also play big English clubs so I felt that I learned a lot from them, especially the European ties,” he said. “The development league is still a decent level, though. I played against Aberdeen earlier this season and they had five over-age players in their side – all good, experienced, first-team players. Even at that age group, when you’re playing for Celtic everyone else wants to beat you so, for me, going from under-17s to get to the Premiership, the development league has helped me in many different ways.”
Now Nesbitt considers the fact that he will be able to remain in the family home in Johnstone while with Thistle for the rest of the season means his temporary move will help him in as much as he won’t have to do his laundry. “Do I still get my washing done? Oh aye! I can’t even make myself toast!”