INA tucked-away pocket of Lennoxtown, Chris McCart’s office is sma l l and unremarkable. And yet from this quiet hub stems much of what is current about Celtic.
As Brendan Rodgers’ side have embarked on a 63-game unbeaten domestic run, the players who emerged into that environment from the tutelage of McCart have been notable.
The values that have been sown into the philosophy of Rodgers’ first-team are evident in McCart’s academy with hard-work and a drive for continual self-improvement at the heart of the mantra.
The Parkhead side’s head of youth development watched with satisfaction as three of his protegees turned it on against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League a couple of weeks ago with Kieran Tierney, James Forrest and Callum McGregor all shining against the Bundesliga giants.
But what has resonated more than anything this season is a quote Rodgers gave to the written press a couple of months back.
“One of the best things that I have heard from the manager is that no young player should be saying they play for Celtic,” said McCart.
“They train with Celtic, that is it. It is so true. It resonated with everyone in here what he was saying.
“He doesn’t like lazy days. He wants the best and seeing where your best will take you. We will all make mistakes, but it is how you learn from them.
“Certainly, that culture of tattoos, big cars, designer toilet bags, big watches, the bling… it is always going to be an attraction to any young player.
“We live in a world now where it is about overnight sensations, so there is that culture within society as a whole but here we are trying to create an environment where it is about working hard and seeing the rewards that come from that.”
Rodgers himself sets his own example.
Little more than 48 hours before Celtic faced Bayern Munich, Rodgers was at Lennoxtown to coach an under-14 side.
And as McCart went on to explain, that wasn’t all he was busy with.
“In that same working week he came in and asked to meet with all the coaches,” he said.
“He spoke to every one of them. We put it on during the day with 99.9 per cent attendance with coaches who aren’t full-time making sure that they had a day off work to come in for it.
“That goes from us right down to the guys i n the development centres for the kids at five. He invited them all to watch training after it, he invited them into his office, he talked to everyone.
“In my role here, I went to Tony Mowbray, to Neil Lennon, to Ronny Deila – they all gave in-service sessions to the academy. But what I am finding now is that it is the manager chapping at my door and saying this is what I want to do, what can do we think about that, where can we improve on this.
“He comes and tells us what he is thinking and there has been a significant shift in that he drives myself.
“It is incredible. He doesn’t want there to feel as though there are boundaries between youth level and first-team level.
“He wants the under-eight coach to feel as important as the development squad manager. He wants everyone to be part of it.
“Whenever the first-team win anything, he thanks everyone.
“The greatest value he brings is that humility. He is the firstteam manager who is thought of very highly not just at Celtic and within Scottish football but in the wider football environment too.”
The photographs that adorn McCart’s office wall would not be out of place in a headmaster’s office.
GIANT squad photos with little kids from the under-eights all the way up to late teens are grouped together in annual team snapshots, with hooped jerseys i nstead of the shirts-and-ties.
There is something pastoral in the scholarly approach of McCart too.
Overseeing his own academy, his remit is to graduate players who are capable of playing in the pressurised environment of first-team football.
In the last decade, 18 of them have featured for Celtic in the Champions League; 55 have debuted at first-team level, 168 have forged careers elsewhere with McCart in charge of the most successful academy in Scotland. But the bar is always being raised.
“We don’t want to develop players just to play in Scotland and the Premier League, we want to be able to produce players capable of performing in the Champions League,” said McCart.
“To see three of our academy graduates play and perform really well against Bayern Munich in the competition