IT was a moment that Stephen Welsh had no doubt been dreaming about for years, but his Old Firm debut turned into the stuff of nightmares as Celtic were well beaten by Rangers on Saturday.

It was just the second Celtic start for the 20-year-old after making an impressive debut against Hamilton last term, but while he was far from the worst performer in the home ranks on the day, the game proved a steep learning curve for the centre-back.

The lesson for the youngster now will lie in how to react to the defeat, and as he looked around the Celtic dressing room after the match at the weekend, he saw men that are made of the right stuff to bounce back from it.

The visit of AC Milan on Thursday night would seem the perfect tonic to lift the spirits, with Welsh admitting that it may take a while for the pall to clear from the sombre Celtic squad.

“Everyone was gutted,” Welsh said. “It was just really disappointing.

“I’m obviously gutted as the result was really disappointing. We need to win the derby games. The only goal was to win.

“I don’t think we played particularly well at all and, unfortunately, came out of the wrong side with a defeat.

“It was a big day for me, but all that matters is go and win the game. I’m just gutted we didn’t do it.

“We have a big game on Thursday [against AC Milan] and then another big one on Sunday [against Aberdeen], so we need to bounce back.

“At 1-0 down, this team can score goals. You have the belief that we can score, but we didn’t create as many chances as we would have liked to do.

“I don’t think their goalkeeper really had a save to make, so that is disappointing and so were the goals we lost.

“We need to work on that defensively. We were adamant we could not concede from a set piece, so that was really disappointing.

“AC Milan is another great test [though]. The Rangers match was only my second game, so to play against AC Milan for my third would be a good test, but you never know until the team gets announced.

“These are the games you want to be playing in as a kid, so you might as well play in them right from the start and that’s it. It’s experience.”

Welsh didn’t have much time to get nervous about the occasion, only learning he was starting the match when manager Neil Lennon announced the team in the dressing room beforehand. Indeed, he may have been one of the last people in Scotland to know he was in the starting XI, with Lennon raging that his team was leaked on social media the night before the game.

“You do your shape and that type of thing, but you don’t actually know who is playing until the manager announces the team,” he said.

“When you see your name on that team sheet, you need to be ready.

“There are no excuses anymore, you have to get out there and do the business. It was unfortunate we did not manage it.”

If Welsh’s overall performance as he grew into the Rangers game was one of the few chinks of light that Celtic could take from the Rangers defeat, then so too were the flashes of promise shown on the left by new arrival Diego Laxalt.

Welsh says that he has been impressed by the on-loan Milan full-back, and he thinks his undoubted pedigree will make him a valuable asset for Celtic when he is up to full speed.

“He’s got so much quality,” Welsh said. “He’s played in World Cups and with AC Milan at the highest level.

“He’s a really good player and he will need to understand the mentality of the boys and the mentality of Celtic.

“It'll come in time and, as I said, he’s a really, really good player.”