WHEN Alan Stubbs first brought Martin Boyle to Hibernian, he wasn’t sure if the winger would be able to handle the step up in expectation that came with playing for the Easter Road club. Now, he has no hesitation in stating he is ready to make the step up to Celtic.

Boyle came to Easter Road from Dundee as part of an initial loan move that saw Alex Harris go the other way. Conventional wisdom at the time was that the Dens Park outfit had got the better end of the deal. Quite the sliding doors moment.

What Stubbs saw in Boyle though was not only his trademark raw pace, but a player of untapped potential. His hunch has more than been borne out in the years since, and he has taken pride in seeing the footballer – a full international with Australia - and the character that Boyle has since become.

Such has been his growth on and off the pitch, that Stubbs fully believes he would handle the expectations that come with playing for Celtic. And should their reported interest in bringing the £3m-rated winger to Celtic Park come to fruition, then he would thrive playing under the swashbuckling style of manager Ange Postecoglou.

“First of all, I wouldn’t want to see Hibs lose him, but if he is going to go then I think Celtic would be a good fit for him,” Stubbs said.

“If you consider the way that Ange wants to play, he wants to play on the front foot and Martin does that really well in terms of closing the opposition down high up the pitch.

“Then, obviously, from a counter-attacking point of view he fits into that because he’s so quick.

“I think he could handle the expectation at Celtic. With every player, you have to adjust to the expectations of that fanbase. The ones who are the successes are the ones who manage to do that.

“When I was at Celtic, I saw lots of players there who were as talented as Boyley, if not more talented, but they just didn’t handle the pressure.

“But that’s just a fundamental of football. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are bad players, but expectation is a very difficult thing to appreciate at times, and to understand.

“From working with Boyley, I don’t necessarily think that he would have a problem with that, but I understand that it’s a big challenge to overcome as well.

“First and foremost is the challenge of getting to a club like Celtic, but I think the even bigger challenge is dealing with the expectation that comes with it.”

Stubbs explained that even though he knew he had a player on his hands when he arrived at Easter Road – so much so that he quickly persuaded the Hibs board to hand him a two-year deal – he also knew he was something of a project.

He was able to harness his speed into a devastating asset, but Stubbs feels there is still even more room for improvement to come from the 28-year-old.

“His pace would have been what attracted us to him at first,” he said.

“It was something I felt we needed an injection of in the team, and that was probably the biggest factor. But he needed to mould it into his game.

“Speaking to him at the time, he probably needed a change and a fresh environment, and it worked.

“It didn’t happen overnight. Initially, coming from where he was to Hibs was a step up in expectations as a club, even though we were in The Championship at the time.

“It took a little bit of time, but he started to grow into being more comfortable. Initially when he came in, he was a quiet type, but then he started to grow into the character he is now.

“It was just confidence, that’s all it was. When you’ve got the raw credentials that he had, and you channel it in the right way, then it’s all about confidence.

He added: “I haven’t been surprised really [by how well he has done]. If you ask any defender the one thing that they are scared of, then it is pace.

“I think the fact he had an abundance of it, at times he just needed to understand how quick he was, and then how he could mould that pace into his game.

“Sometimes, he would try to do everything too quick, and then he would either overrun the ball at the last minute or he was still carrying his pace into his crosses, and his success from that wasn’t what it should have been.

“I think what you find with a lot of people who are very pacy, they then need to understand how to slow down, or how to speed up on impact. You’ll see lots of quick wingers and they will knock it past a full-back, and for them that’s the easy bit. The hard bit then is crossing the ball.

“That’s what he had to understand. A lot of people with that much pace, they just open the gates and keep running.

“What Martin has done very well, not just in terms of his assists but his goals too, is add that composure to his game. Even in front of goal, he looks a lot more composed and assured, and the same in wide areas.

“When you look now at someone that is playing at the top of his game, you can see why Celtic are interested in him.”