At the age of just 25, Callum McGregor is hardly ready for the nibbie and cut-price lunches at the Day Centre.

Get him talking about Karamoko Dembele, however, and you half expect him to begin his answer with the phrase “when I were a lad” while thumbing some baccy into his pipe.

“I still try to think of myself as a young boy but it’s not happening,” he said with a wry smile.

When you have 16-year-old Dembele coming off the substitute’s bench, it’s hardly surprising that McGregor feels like something of a wizened veteran.

With his youthful energy, flair and fancy footwork, Dembele gave those of a Celtic persuasion a keek into the future as he made his first-team debut against Hearts last weekend.

Big in reputation but still relatively small in stature, the teenage Dembele has plenty to learn but McGregor is more than happy to play a part in that education. He also knows there are lessons to be learned.

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Nurturing young talent, while tempering expectation and reining in the hype, can be a tricky juggling

act. The case of Islam Feruz, the former Celtic prodigy who was lured by the bright lights and big bucks of Chelsea but has since disappeared off the face of the earth, provides a cautionary tale.

“It’s important we manage him (Dembele) properly and everyone doesn’t get carried away and expect him to be in the team every week,” reasoned McGregor.

“He’s still a young kid and he’s got to learn and grow and it’s our job as senior players and a club to look after him and mentor him to get the best out of him.

“At such a young age, to come on and play with the maturity he did against Hearts was great. You can see his football brain working before the ball even comes to him.

“The management of the club might look at the situation with Islam Feruz and learn from how they handled that. But Karamoko is undoubtedly a top talent.

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“When everyone is talking about you at such a young age then it has to affect you in some way but there are good characters in the squad who will keep him grounded.

“He certainly seems like nothing fazes him. You could see that as soon as he came into first team training. The first time I watched him was when the video clips were going about social media of him in youth tournaments and he looked like a world beater at that age.

“He looks comfortable and isn’t overawed by the players, which you might expect from young kids.”

All this talk of teenage kicks got McGregor reflecting on his own development at Celtic as he looked back on those formative years.

“I joined Celtic full-time when I was 16 but I didn’t play like him at that age,” he added with a chuckle. “We were at Barrowfield with the Under-17s and Under-19s so I had to do it the hard way.”

Having done the hard yards, which included a loan stint with Notts County, McGregor is more than ­qualified to pass on his pearls of wisdom. He must feel like the grandfaither in the Werther’s Originals advert at times.

“Last weekend, we were walking out we were told one of us three who would be coming on,” said McGregor, who was on the subs bench alongside Dembele for the final match of the season. “I just said to him ‘you’ll be alright son’ and told him not to worry.

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“I gave him a few words and tried to help him calm any nerves. Even if one of those words helped him settle then it was worth it. For us it’s about trying to pass on that experience to such a good talent. If he can take it on and add it to his game then perfect.”

Whether Dembele gets a run-out at Hampden in this weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup final against Hearts remains to be seen.

John Fleck was just 16 when he turned out for Rangers in the 2008 showpiece and was the youngest player to appear in a British cup final.

“If he was to get on at the weekend in it would be an amazing achievement,” added McGregor. “The way he plays is perfect for Celtic and he’ll excite the fans but it’s about looking after him and putting him in during the right games and letting him flourish.”

Having represented both Scotland and England at international level in the junior ranks, Dembele still has to make a decision over the saltire or the cross of St George.

“He’s got a bit of a choice to make,” said McGregor. “Obviously we’d love him to play for Scotland. You want talents like that in your team. But it’ll be his decision with his people.”

McGregor, of course, is very much a Scotland man. And with a new man at the helm of the national team in the shape of Steve Clarke, the Celtic player is looking forward to a new regime and a fresh start.

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“It’s a good appointment and it seems to have excited everyone and now it’s about getting behind the manager and players and getting that support back to Hampden then getting a good result against Cyprus,” he said of next month’s European Championship qualifier in Mount Florida.

“You look at the impact he (Clarke) has had at Kilmarnock. The results spoke for themselves and they’ve finished third for the first time in 50-odd years.

“It’s a massive achievement and if he can bring that organisation to Scotland, who’s to say we can’t finish the group strongly.”

McGregor is looking to finish the domestic scene with a flourish too as Celtic aim to put the tin lid on yet another triple whammy of honours on the home front in the cup final. Thoughts may be drifting to summer holidays but there has been no downing of tools.

“The good thing about this group is we’ve been so successful but we keep looking at the next game and we prepare properly,” he said of this constant quest for success.

“When we turn up on Saturday we’ll be in the best shape possible to get a result.”