WHEN Aaron Mooy first arrived in Scottish football at St Mirren in October 2010, it didn’t take long for his new team-mate Hugh Murray to be convinced of his obvious talents. And yet, the long-serving Buddies midfielder couldn’t envisage the youngster going on to play in the English Premier League one day.

For all his ability, Mooy struggled to nail down a regular place in Danny Lennon’s starting XI. He made 30 appearances in a little under two years before returning home to Australia for a stint with Western Sydney Wanderers.

The 31-year-old has subsequently been signed by Manchester City, played in the English Premier League with Brighton and represented his country at a World Cup, and yesterday signed a two-year contract with Celtic and has been reunited with former Australia boss Ange Postecoglou.

It is a far cry from those training sessions back in Paisley over a decade ago. Murray trained alongside Mooy every day after the then-20-year-old made the switch from Bolton Wanderers and believes there was one thing more than any that was holding back his career: his attitude.

“When he came to St Mirren he was obviously a young boy but his ability was never in question,” Murray recalled. “He was very good with both feet, could score goals and pick a pass. He was very talented. At that time his attitude at times left him down a bit but he was young.

“He could pick passes in tight areas, or in a tight situation he would shift to one side and play an unbelievable 50-yard pass. Ability-wise he was outstanding.

“In training his ability was clear to see but the other side of the game – his work-rate was questionable back then. He’s improved dramatically in that regard.

“He has gone on to have an outstanding career, playing in the English Premier League and things like that. He went back to Australia after St Mirren and he’s obviously got his head down and worked really hard because he has had a great career.

“I remember him going back to Australia but I didn’t really follow his career after that. Then one night I was watching a Brighton game and I went ‘Jesus, that’s Aaron Mooy playing in the Premier League’. It was like watching a different player.”

Mooy isn’t the first talented youngster who required a couple of setbacks before their career truly took off and he won’t be the last, either.

His career demonstrates that the penny dropped for the 31-year-old during his time Down Under, Murray argues, and moving to a club of Celtic’s calibre as he approaches his peak proves that his mindset has changed dramatically.

“I think that’s maybe been the case with Aaron,” he said. “He didn’t play that much in the team.

“I remember he scored a cracking goal against Rangers when we beat them at St Mirren Park that day. We beat them 2-1. But he didn’t really play every week – he was in and out of the team.

“If you had told me then what he would go on to do I would have probably laughed at you. You’ve got to take your hat off to him.

“You don’t get a move to Celtic at that age if you’re not a good player. He’s 31 now and in footballer terms you are coming to the peak of your career. Celtic are getting a very good player – he can play with both feet, pass the ball well and he is really fit. I watched him at Brighton a few times and his work-rate down there was phenomenal.

“Ability-wise he should have been in our team every week but his attitude at times – going in a huff sometimes over silly wee things – wasn’t great back then. But he has obviously had a good think to himself and all the things he wasn’t doing at St Mirren.

“I think he thought he was going to be able to just walk into the team but in football you have to be able to work as well. If you don’t work for your team then you won’t be in the team. The game has changed that much, you have got to be able to run about as well. You can’t just have lots of ability and walk about the park.”

Mooy’s pathway into the first team at Parkhead will not be easy to negotiate. The likes of Callum McGregor, Reo Hatate, Matt O’Riley and David Turnbull are already vying for one of the three midfield positions in Postecoglou’s system and none of the quartet will be easily dislodged.

Murray, though, believes that the carrot of Champions League football and the opportunity to play against some of the continent’s finest players will provide his old team-mate with all the motivation he needs.

“You’ve also got James McCarthy there who didn’t play that much last year, so there is a lot of competition,” Murray observed. “Big Ange demands the players work hard and they play at a hundred miles an hour, so you’ve got to be fit to play in that team.

“You see the signings Postecoglou has made for Celtic, he has been very cute. Basically every signing he has brought to Celtic has been outstanding so he knows what he’s bringing to Celtic.

“It’s nice to see Aaron doing so well. I’ll try to get along to Parkhead and see him at some point this season and hopefully he’s in the team.

“He is on the global stage with Celtic playing in the Champions League this year so he is going to be playing in the best competition in Europe. I’m sure Aaron will have it in his head that he will want to get in that team and play Champions League football.

“When you showcase your ability there, you are doing it on the top stage. It will have been a big attraction in going to Celtic. They are going to play against the best players in the world.”