GREG TAYLOR was thrown into the fray as Kilmarnock fought for their Premiership lives four years ago.
The Scotland international left-back, who joined Celtic in a £2.25million switch from the Rugby Park outfit on the last day of the transfer deadline on September 2 last year, had to hit the ground running in his fledgling career.
Former Ayrshire boss Lee Clark handed the 18-year-old rookie defender only his second start in a relegation play-off second leg confrontation against Falkirk.
Killie were losing 1-0 from the first game, but Taylor played his role as they won 4-0 in the return to remain in the top flight.
Taylor didn’t hesitate as he rose to the challenge and that is why ex-gaffer Clark is backing his former player to make the No.3 berth at the champions his position as Neil Lennon’s men bid for a historic tenth successive championship.
It appears to be straight fight between the 22-year-old attacking defender and Boli Bolingoli, who also arrived last summer in a £3million move from Rapid Vienna, for the jersey now Jonny Hayes has left the club at the end of his contract to rejoin Aberdeen.
Clark knew the youngster was fearless when he watched him launching into a tackle on so-called tough guy Joey Barton when his team drew with the Ibrox team in front of live TV cameras at Rugby Park in 2016.
The one-time Newcastle and Sunderland midfielder who also bossed Blackpool told the Daily Record: “Greg is a great kid. I have enjoyed seeing his successes in getting the move to Celtic and becoming a full international.
“He gives everything, has a good humour and a great attitude. He is a very talented player.
“From my time at Kilmarnock, everyone remembers the tackle on Joey Barton which I suppose put down a marker.
“I had a giggle at the time because I knew Joey very well from when I was on the coaching staff at Newcastle and he had a bit of a hard man reputation.
“Joey had a wee giggle back at me, too, because he knew what I was laughing at.
“It summed-up Greg. He is very respectful of his opponents, but never fearful of any challenge.
“That’s how he goes about his career and I think it’s the right way.
“I remember watching him making his international debut against Belgium – away to the best team in the world and he approached that game in the same way.
“No fear. Lots of respect. But ready for the challenge.
“Like every challenge that has been put in front of him he will be ready for what lies ahead at Celtic this season and will be up for the fight.”
Clark added: “You will see him flourish this season. I have no doubt about that. Some may say it’s sink or swim. Maybe it is.
“But when I have watched Celtic games on TV, I have thought he has acquitted himself very well.
“So, I have no doubts about him and I don’t think Neil Lennon has, either. I listen to what he has to say and I think he has been pleased with how Greg has settled in.”
Taylor made 15 appearances after making his debut in the 2-0 win over St Mirren in the east end of Glasgow on October 30.