WHEN Freddie Woodman walked into Rugby Park at just 19 years of age, he did so as a young goalkeeper with the footballing world in his hands.

Not only was he first-choice for England at his age level, he would soon have an under-20s World Cup winner’s medal tucked in his pocket after helping his country to victory over Venezuela in Suwon. He had plenty of cash in there too as one of the hottest young prospects in English football.

According to Rugby Park goalkeeping coach Billy Thomson though, you would never have known it. Woodman had arrived in Scotland to make the very most of his loan spell from Newcastle United, and was in possession of an unshakeable will to work hard, improve and make the most of his talent rather than the airs and graces that might have been expected of a young man in his position.

Having impressed during that season in Scotland, and with the experience of further loan spells at Aberdeen and now Swansea City this term – where he is the number one – Woodman appears to be attracting covetous glances from north of the border once more.

Celtic have long been admirers of the now 23-year-old, and reports down south are suggesting that interest may be firming up with a view to Woodman returning to Scottish football for a third time with the champions next season. Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce has already said that while he sees a long-term future for Woodman at St James’s Park, he would like him to go out on loan for another campaign.

In Thomson’s book, a move to Celtic would be beneficial to both club and player, and the 62-year-old former Rangers, Motherwell and Dundee United keeper is in no doubt that he has the mentality to handle being first choice at such a big club.

“I think what really struck me about Freddie was that he was so down to earth,” Thomson explained. “He was really grounded, and he was on good money for a young kid.

“He went about his business, he trained really well, he wasn’t flashy or anything like that. He listened to what you had to say, and he wanted to learn.

“Plus, he was a talented boy. His kicking was good, his distribution and his handling too. He had a real enthusiasm for the game, and you could tell that he really wanted to make it. His general attitude was excellent. He was a good trainer, but he also liked a laugh and a carry on as we all did while working hard. You could see that this was a talented boy.

“He was very open to taking on pointers. He didn’t come up here and demand to play because he was on loan, he knew he had to work and show that he could do it. And he did that, he had a really good season.

“Having been here before, he will know what to expect if he does go to Celtic, and that should help him settle quickly. Rangers and Celtic are massive clubs, and sometimes people can handle it, and sometimes they can’t because of the expectations and what is demanded of them to win week-in, week-out from the fans and everyone else.

“If Celtic do come in for him, then I think that Freddie has the temperament to handle it. You need to have a strong mentality, and Freddie has that, no doubt about it.

“I think that players who come up here from down south are surprised. When Freddie went to places like Ibrox, Parkhead, Easter Road, Tynecastle and Pittodrie, I think his eyes were opened a bit by the great crowds and the great atmospheres.

“It was the same when Daniel Bachmann came up the first time to Kilmarnock, he loved going to Ibrox and Parkhead and all those places.

“I think they are genuinely surprised by the standard, the crowds we get and the whole intensity of it, and that can really help them as well.”

Celtic supporters who may be concerned about Woodman’s inability to make an impression on the Newcastle first-team picture don’t have to think too far back for reassurance on that score, given that they plucked Fraser Forster from a similar position in the fledgling years of his career.

Thomson agrees that is no indication on his ability to compete for the number one position at Celtic, although he concedes he is surprised that Woodman hasn’t had more of an opportunity given his talent.

“You would have thought he would have made more of an impact, definitely,” he said. “He won the World Cup with the 20s for England, after all.

“You can have a really young, talented goalkeeper, but it’s down to the managers choice and what he thinks the team needs, maybe a more experienced goalkeeper because he thinks Freddie isn’t quite ready.

“That’s why he has been out on loan. He’s at Swansea City just now and he’s done really well. I watched him the other day.

“He’s still young, so maybe the manager has just thought that he needs a wee bit more experience.”

Thomson can think of few better learning environments for Woodman to gain that experience than working under Celtic goalkeeping coach Stevie Woods.

“Woodsy is excellent and he will help him,” he said. “I’ve known Stevie for years and he’s an excellent coach.

“I worked with him when Stevie Clarke took over the Scotland job, the two of us worked together for that first week and it was great. It was good to be back with Stevie of course, but it was also good to work with Woodsy.

“I’ve known him for a number of years and he’s an excellent coach, so if Freddie does go there then I’ve no doubt that Woodsy will bring him on just like he has done for a number of keepers.”

As for Kilmarnock, Thomson is looking forward to seeing who he has to work with himself next term, with both he and manager Alex Dyer running the rule over a number of keepers as they look to add two of their own.

They have already been linked with a move to bring Daniel Bachmann back to the club on loan from Watford after the 25-year-old impressed during his previous spell at Rugby Park, but Thomson wasn't giving anything away.

“Daniel definitely made an impression, but we’ll just have to wait and see,” he said. “Like the Celtic situation, there’s a lot of speculation going about.

“We are having a look at the goalkeeping situation. We’ve had a few in, so it’s just a case of picking the right one or two.

“The guys that have come in have done well, so we’ll sit down and decide who is going to come in.”