It was a homecoming of sorts for Paul McMullan when he lined up for Stenhousemuir against Ayr United on Saturday.
The attacking midfielder grew up just a few miles west along the road from Ochilview in Denny, and went to school a similar distance south at Graeme High School.
A product of the school’s SFA pilot project for the Football Performance programme, McMullan is well known locally, and nationally for his exploits with Celtic’s youth teams across Scotland.
“I just want to play competitive games, and I was delighted for the opportunity to come here (Stenhousemuir).”
He took his chance, and made an impression with a goal – and coincidentally soo too did his former Graeme High classmate Craig Sibbald – another Performance School graduate.
Saturday was tinged with irony too. McMullan arrived at Ochilview and took the place of Paul-Jon Sludden, who has departed for Spartans on loan. PJ is the son of someone McMullan knows well.
“I have been with Celtic since nine years of age and I am grateful to the coaches like John Sludden (current Camelon Juniors manager) who have helped me.
“I will continue to train during the week with Celtic at Lennoxtown, train with the lads here twice a week and I’d like to get as many games as possible until the end of the season.”
He was fairly modest in assessing his strike – his first senior level goal when he capitalised on a slack back-pass and added: “I felt I could have helped the boys a bit more in the second half, but I think a tired a bit before the end.”
The winger need not be self critical and appears to have the right attitude. He did not plan any wild celebrations to mark his debut goal, “There will be no drink,” he grinned, “I just go home and have a Chinese with my girlfriend.”
Boss Scott Booth revealed he was well pleased to have tied up McMullan who he descreibed as the best young player in Scotland: “Paul’s a player I have been trying to get for some time and there were others interested. I am delighted to have finally managed it.
“He played 90 minutes for a Celtic team in midweek, so he tired a bit towards the end, but you could see the kind of talent he has.”
And that’s a talent the people of Stenhousemuir have been exposed to, just like those at Graeme High and Denny have enjoyed.