PADDY McCOURT gets more mentions from fans in the stands than he makes appearances on the pitch, and his introduction as a substitute on Sunday brought an instantaneous show of raw affection pouring down from all sides of Celtic Park.
He's the player Neil Lennon would love to field every week, and the entertainer Celtic supporters would pay to see strut his stuff whenever or wherever their team performs.
But now, at 28, and after another frustrating season, it's decision time for the cult figure who has played 69 times and scored 10 goals in his four seasons in Paradise.
It's not the first occasion McCourt has stood at this crossroads.
Two years ago, when Lennon was installed as permanent manager after the departure of Tony Mowbray, Blackpool came calling with an offer to take the Northern Ireland midfield maestro south.
The rookie boss managed to talk McCourt into staying with the assurance that he was very much part of Lennon's plans.
"He was," recalled the Hoops boss, before, unprompted, adding: "I love him, and he is a good guy.
"I love him as a footballer, and he knows what I think of him.
"He may have a year left on his contract, so that is something we may have to look at for next season."
That's the option Celtic hold, and the discussions on what Paddy does next have already begun.
Lennon believes that is only fair, given how loyal the man who arrived at the club on a free from Derry City in 2008 has been.
Not just loyal, but patient, as well, though that's a word which has unwanted association when linked with a player who appears to spend more time receiving treatment than training.
The core fitness which McCourt has lacked has left him in the precarious position where the harder he works to try to get match-fit, the more likely he is to push himself over the edge and rule himself out with another niggly injury.
It's a alien world for Lennon who, after overcoming a serious back condition during the formative years of his career, enjoyed an almost- unbroken run of good health, allowing him to play at will.
However, he does have every sympathy for McCourt's plight, and accepts a decision on his future has to be made.
"We have had a couple of chats about that already," Lennon revealed.
"I will let him have a holiday and, if he wants to come and see me pre-season, we can have another chat about things.
"The only thing that has curtailed Paddy is that he has been wrecked with injury.
"Niggly injuries have curtailed him, whether they be back or hamstring injuries.
"He has not had the chance this year – though he certainly did last year – to get a concerted run of games.
"And, when the team are going so well, it's very difficult for him to get into it."
Fortunately, McCourt did manage to make enough appearances to qualify for a championship medal, albeit all 13 games he tried to light up saw him come on from the bench.
He has always maintained he did not want to leave Celtic without collecting a trophy, so that could be another factor in determining how he sees his future.
Asked if he has reached an age and a stage where he has to think about getting game time somewhere, Lennon replied: "Possibly, yes.
"It's all right saying, 'Look, I want you here', but he might think differently about it. I will have that chat with him."
Lennon will not come to the table with any guarantees. He will, however, tell McCourt that he is valued.
"He is very handy to have here," the manager said.
"The Motherwell game away in November was the pivotal day in our season, and he came on and created the goal (scored by Gary Hooper which gave Celtic the 2-1 victory that set them off on their 17-game winning run). So he has been very important to us at times."
The challenge for Lennon is to retain all the men he wants, but make room – both on the training field and in the wage bill – for the new faces he believes he needs to take this team to the next level.
McCourt is nowhere near the top end of the wage scale, but could block the path to the first team for an emerging talent from the youth side.
It is all in the pot for consideration, and the manager knows that, even with the playing season over, for him, the hard work continues.
Fitness programmes have been given to all the players, including McCourt, and they will be expected to follow them throughout the close season to ensure they report back on July 2 in the best possible condition.
Lennon believes that will give them the platform from which to launch a serious attempt at qualifying for the Champions League and defending their SPL title.
While his talent search will go on in the background, he is taking great satisfaction from the fact the group of players already assembled have come together as a potent force with the potential to get even better.
The Hoops boss watched Charlie Mulgrew receive the Scottish Football Writers' Player of the Year award on Sunday to complete a clean sweep of the prizes this season.
But Lennon believes there were many strong contenders from within the Parkhead squad, which underlines the strength in depth he has at his disposal.
"Fraser Forster, Joe Ledley, Victor Wanyama, Adam Matthews, Georgios Samaras, Gary Hooper, they have all had a huge season for us," he said.
"So, it's very difficult to pick one, allied to Charlie and James (Forrest), who got the Young Player awards.
"And I have probably missed a couple out, off the top of my head, who have had a brilliant season.
"Beram Kayal and Scott Brown. If they had not been out injured for two or three months, I am sure they would have been in the reckoning, as well."
Lennon accepts that having to operate with some of your biggest names unavailable is part and parcel of the business, and another reason why he needs to retain as many tried and trusted men – like McCourt – to step into the breach when required.
He said: "We had 11 out at one stage of the season. We lost big, big players for long periods.
"Emilio Izaguirre, Kayal, Brown, Daniel Majstorovic, they were all missing at times, but we were able to cope.
"The players can take a great deal of satisfaction from that."