NEIL LENNON has revealed that 17-year-old Liam Henderson is already being likened to Scotland skipper Darren Fletcher.
And after watching the rising star stroll through his first start for the club in the 3-0 win over Kilmarnock on Friday, the Celtic boss understands why comparisons are being made with the Manchester United man.
But while Lennon believes the young midfielder is now showing the way to all the other aspiring kids at the club, he is confident Henderson will keep his talented feet very much on the ground.
The Parkhead boss is delighted with the colt's progress and attitude and said: "Liam has set a good benchmark for the rest of the kids now. And there are others - before Liam, Darnell Fisher has already come in and has done very well.
"Darnell has been pretty steady for us in the games he has played this season. But we think that Liam is cultured.
"Someone said he looked a bit like Darren Fletcher on Friday, and I can see the comparisons.
"It is obviously very, very early for that. But for a starting debut made by a kid of that age, it is fantastic for him.
"Scott Brown, Stefan Johansen and Adam Matthews helped him through the game, which was important."
Lennon showed within days of taking charge of the Hoops in 2010 that he believes if you are good enough, you are old enough, with teenager James Forrest.
And while the club will continue to attempt to buy as high a quality as they can afford, the manager wants to keep the flow from the development squad going.
"We know we have a few players bubbling under who may come into the first team," said Lennon.
"But Liam has been at the forefront of things for the majority of the season, in terms of the development squad players.
"It's difficult at times at a big club to make the breakthrough. But you saw at Kilmarnock on Friday how confident Liam is on the ball.
"He is not an arrogant boy. He is, however, quietly confident and he has a great work ethic. We think he can play a bit, and he showed all of that at Rugby Park."
Lennon first gave Henderson his chance as a sub in the rout of Motherwell at Fir Park in November, and added: "Liam just grew into the game at Kilmarnock, and he was a real bonus for us.
"He'll get a lot of confidence from that. We didn't feel it would faze him - and it didn't - because he's been training with us for a little while now.
"We've got high hopes for him, and he's still growing. It's great to see one of the academy boys coming through and playing like that."
Henderson is now looking to add more appearances before the season ends, but accepts he is on a steep learning curve.
The teenager said: "The other midfielders were always talking to me. They are top-level internationalists, and all you can do is learn from them.
"It's a big step up in the pace of the game from the Under-20s, but I felt I became more confident with my passes as the game went on."