Parallels were made between Lewis Morgan and Stuart Armstrong by Jack Ross this week as he talked up the prospects of the St Mirren winger succeeding at Celtic. Day one of the 21-year-old’s quest to follow in Armstrong’s footsteps would suggest that the Paisley club’s manager certainly wasn’t stretching specious similarities.
Morgan, said Ross, was as articulate, intelligent, rounded and grounded an individual as you could find in Scottish football. Let’s be honest here, these types are practically novelties. Yet, in his first media duties to mark his £300,000 move from the Paisley club with which he will see out this season on loan, it made it no less impressive that the well-spoken winger could exhibit genuine grey matter. Sufficient, indeed, to believe that legal-degree undergraduate Armstrong won’t need to be restricted to the dressing room ‘bantz’ when Morgan pitches up at Celtic in the summer.
The Scotland under-21 cap demonstrated an impressive grasp of language and detail in expounding on his conviction that coming under the tutelage of Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers, pictured, would perfectly serve his lofty ambitions at his new club.
“Coming to work with a manager like Celtic have was a key factor,” he said. “He is incredible and I’m looking forward to working with him and his backroom staff. You look at his portfolio. He’s developed lots of young players who are similar to me. He had a few local lads at Liverpool and it was the same at Swansea. He likes to nurture local talent and that was one of the key things for me.
“The manager has shown in the past the opportunities are there if you are doing well. There are young lads I know here who have been given their chance this season. If I can come in for pre-season and hit the ground running there’s no reason I can’t have a big future here.”
Morgan simply will not countenance failing at the Scottish champions, even if the atrophy rate for young talent – even, on occasion, full internationals bought for more than seven figures – is frighteningly high. The attacker sports a bemused expression at the idea he might have spent the past couple of months fretting over whether he is good enough to make it at Celtic.
“I’ve not really asked myself that question. I know I can,” said the Greenock-born forward. “If I didn’t then I wouldn’t be joining the club. A lot of the responsibility falls on me. If I don’t make it then I’ll only have myself to blame because I’ll have everything available here to enable me to improve and develop as a player.
“I know the club is massive and the players here are outstanding. You can see by how they have been dominating. I will have a fight on my hands to get in that team but I don’t doubt my ability in being able to do it. I want to show what I am about.”
Morgan embraced that opportunity when St Mirren were drawn away to Celtic in the quarter-final of the Scottish Cup last season. Rodgers described Ross’s men as the best team Celtic had faced at that point in their invincible treble season, after the Paisley club took a lead they held for almost a full half, before succumbing to a 4-1 loss.
The encounter ended with Rodgers seeking out the young winger to praise his performance but Morgan didn’t think then he had made the indelible impression that would end with Celtic Park becoming his permanent home.
“I never really look too far in the future so at that time I probably wasn’t thinking I’d be here one day,” he said. “I do have the confidence in myself that I knew I’d be able to impress. After the game he commented to me about my pace and how I’d done well. To hear that from that manager at such a young age was a big thing for me. It gave me a lot of confidence. I needed that at the end of last season.”
Morgan is unlikely to be fazed by the glare that comes with playing for Celtic since he seems of the mind that he needs the adrenaline rush that comes with focus and expectancy to bring out the best in him.
As his profile has grown owing to the knowledge that a move to Celtic was impending, his performance levels with the Paisley club appear to have ratcheted up. So too the attention from opponents and opposition supporters. Gourock-based Morgan was barracked incessantly in this week’s derby with Greenock Morton – with chants of “we know where you live” – as he netted his 13th goal of the season to follow two peaches he netted to down Dundee United last weekend.
“I think I am inspired by being in the spotlight, maybe even subconsciously. I thrive on the big games. I like when pressure is put on me,” he said.
“When I play in games where there’s less pressure then maybe I don’t perform quite as well. The spotlight will be on me a lot more now and I think it could spur me on that wee bit more. When you are at a club like Celtic it is always going to bring out that extra 10-15 percent.
“I loved all that [in the derby] to be honest, it was brilliant. Obviously when I scored I tried to give a wee bit back. Listen, I think you’re going to get that wherever you go in football. I tend just to take it with a wee pinch of salt and have a laugh with it. It spurs me on to want to do well. But I’m sure at a club like Celtic that kind of thing will be ten fold…”