JASON MCATEER admired Damien Duff the player and the team-mate yet never envisaged him becoming a coach.

But the former Republic of Ireland international reckons Duff will make a name for himself on the other side of the white line as he embarks on the next stage of his career with boyhood heroes Celtic.

Duff has quickly risen through the ranks at Parkhead after initially joining the Hoops’ youth department in January and he is now a trusted member of Neil Lennon’s staff.

The 40-year-old was named as first team coach when Lennon returned to Celtic following Brendan Rodgers’ departure to Leicester and he and assistant John Kennedy stand side by side with the Northern Irishman.

It is a position McAteer never thought the former winger would take to but he is pleased to see Duff given the chance to earn his stripes with the Hoops.

McAteer said: “He’s been promoted really quickly – but I don’t think there’s any harm in that. He has been thrown in at the deep end but he’s got the temperament and mentality to thrive.

“He was always quiet, never lost his temper when he was playing. Very likeable and knowledgeable, as well.

“If you had asked me back then if I thought he would go into coaching, probably not.

“But, then again, I didn’t think Steven Gerrard would either. I thought Jamie Carragher was more likely, so it shows what I know.

“He’s proven me wrong, has Duffer, and he’s got a great opportunity there, having been promoted very quickly.

“I spoke to him the day before he came up to sign for Celtic and he was initially going in on the youth side.

“Now he’s working with the first team, probably because of the change of management.

“Lenny has obviously got a lot of trust in him, he’s given him that opportunity – and he’s clearly doing it.”

The chance to join Celtic was one that was too good to turn down for Duff as he made the move from Shamrock Rovers earlier this year.

He now finds himself in the middle of a Premiership title race as Lennon looks to lead Celtic to nine-in-a-row.

After a career at the top level in England with the likes of Chelsea and Fulham, and 100 caps for his country, he is equipped for the challenge.

McAteer said: “We’ve all handled pressure like that all our careers. We’ve played in World Cups together, played in big games.

“You want that pressure if you work in football. You need pressure to drive you on. If he didn’t feel the pressure, it would be a bad thing.

“But he’s at a massive football club, he’s under a good manager in Lenny and he’ll learn a lot from him.

“The other thing I felt, when I was coaching with John Barnes, is that there is only so much you can do. Once the 11 players went over the line, there wasn’t too much you could do.

“You could kick every ball for them – but sometimes they were kicking it in the wrong direction. Often the majority of them were doing that.

“It can be hard work and you go grey very quickly. But I’m sure Duffer will be OK.”

The significance of a title win this term would not be lost on anyone inside Parkhead as Celtic aim to continue their domestic dominance and clinch a ninth successive title.

And McAteer reckons Duff’s relationship with the club will make the battle extra special.

He said: “I always felt that. I never felt anything similar to what I had playing for Liverpool. I grew up as a fan of Liverpool and I got the opportunity to play for them.

“What I felt there, I never felt at any other club I played for.

“Bolton, I have a love affair with them because they gave me the opportunity and I had a great time there.

“Sunderland and Blackburn, as much as I loved playing for them and gave 100 per cent, it wasn’t the same.

“When you are playing for Liverpool and it’s your club, you are a fan of that club, it’s not that you give more – but it feels different.

“A win feels a lot more special, you feel what the fans feel because you’ve stood on the terraces and know what it means. So Damien will feel that with Celtic. When you are a fan of a club, it always helps.”