When you are in the final year of your contract the offer of a loan spell with East Stirling must seem like an ominous warning.
Last November Luke Donnelly moved to the third team in Falkirk, making his debut in a 2-0 home defeat against Berwick Rangers.
To an outsider the lanky kid must have seemed miles away from the big time but over the last nine months the teenager’s development has hit the accelerator.
A double in the 2-1 win over Hamilton Accies booked Celtic a place in the semi-final of the SFA Youth Cup where he ran amok scoring four times in the 6-0 win over Hibs, crucially playing in the ‘Johansen’ role as the most advanced midfielder.
Sevco were swept aside in the Hampden final with Donnelly again on the scoresheet with the Ibrox side fortunate to escape with just a 5-2 defeat.
While his peers were at a training camp in Valencia over the last fortnight, Donnelly was with the first team squad, making a favourable impression against Den Bosch and being among the substitutes against Dukla Prague and Real Sociedad.
On Monday night at Cappielow Stevie Frail caught up with Donnelly again and wasn’t disappointed by what h saw with the teenager scoring either side of strikes from Stefan Scepovic and Anthony Stokes as Celtic won 3-1 against Morton.
“LD was fantastic,” Frail admitted after the match, a view shared by a number of Championship managers eager to take the attacking midfielder out on loan.
“At the end of last season he really caught the eye and he’s continued his form into the new season.
“He stayed behind to train with the first team, we can see the development every day in training from working alongside top class professionals, his game is improving all the time.
“He knows that he has to keep on working but he has the right attitude. He’s a laid back character which is good for a footballer, nothing really phases him but he has brought a real intensity to his game.
“Everyone at the club can see that, he uses it in training and in every match that he plays.”
After playing for the bulk of his career as a striker moving one step back has brought an extra gear to Donnelly’s game.
Standing at over 6 ft 3 he isn’t afraid to chase down opponents and displays great vision when in possession of the ball while retaining a striker’s instinct for a half chance around goal.
East Stirling may not be everyone’s idea of the place to fine tune your game but Frail is in no doubt about the benefit for player and club of Donnelly’s stint at the coalface of the game.
“It doesn’t matter to us the stature of a club, when a player goes out on loan all that we want is for them to be involved in competitive games,” Frail added. “That’s all that matters, we want them to have time on the park playing in games that matter.
“We’ve always believed in LD’s ability but he really is ahead of schedule from where we anticipated and that’s all down to the player.
“He got his games and finished last season on fire playing with confidence and having a big impact on games.
“There’s more to come from him, he’s had a great spell recently, now he has to take that forward and continue to improve over the season ahead.”
Donnelly signed a two year contract at the end of last season.