IT must have been four years ago when I first heard the name Karamoko Dembele.

The word from Celtic back then was that a 12-year-old boy in the academy was one of the best they had ever seen. He was smaller than all of his team-mates but had pace, tricks and a touch. I was intrigued.

Soon enough, people were asking me about ‘this Dembele kid at Celtic’ and all I could say was that while I hadn’t see him kick a ball yet, there was a lot of talk about his potential.

Celtic as a club did their best to keep a lid on him. Too often, young players get ridiculously hyped up which outs unnecessary pressure on them. However, it proved impossible for the academy staff to hide away such a talent.

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He played for the development team at 13, a story that went around the world. He scored goals for Scotland at youth level. He was given a professional contract at 15. These are not thing which happens all the time.

And after making his Celtic debut on Sunday at, gulp, 16 years and three months, everyone can see why so many have been excited by Dembele from the first moment the scouts clapped eyes on him.

He thoroughly deserved playing in the second-half on Sunday. I really enjoyed watching him take on the Hearts defenders. It was great to see him get thumped, then got back on his feet and continue his run.

Three times he had a shot on goal. His flick with the outside of his left foot to Anthony Ralston was exquisite. Mikey Johnston scored two goals and but it was his little team-mate who stole the show.

It will be interesting to see whether Dembele makes the Scottish Cup final squad. That will be up to the staff. There are obviously far more experienced players in that squad who Neil Lennon might think deserve to be involved.

But you ever know.

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I’ll be interested to see whether Dembele goes with the first-team during pre-season. He has been training with them and I’m told holding his own against seasoned pros.

Now, you might not think that a 5ft 3 kid and I had anything in common. However, I was not as lot older when I made my debut for Luton Town, I was 17, so I know what it’s like to be so young coming into a very adult world.

I was fearless. I thought I could take on the world and couldn’t wait to get out there and show everyone what I could so. I bet the wee man was like that on Sunday.

Now, he is 16. We can’t get too excited, says a man with a column about him, because he’s really only starting out.

But I can see him playing more first-team games next season. Lenny didn’t put him on as a gimmick. He deserved to be there.

Dembele showed great maturity in his first 45 minutes of senior football. His team-mates were keen to get him on the ball because they know how good he is.

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I watched him playing for the Under-18s at Morton a few weeks ago and he was almost kicked off the park.

They doubled up on him because they Morton player knew that allowing him a run at them was not the best plan of action.

The Celtic academy is producing some good players, that’s great to see, with Dembele, Johnston, following Kieran Tierney, Callum McGregor and James Forrest.

This lad might be the best of all. We shall see. By he has one hell of a chance.