Celtic sign young Hibs defender after ‘rolling out red carpet’

Schoolboy Conlan Smith is celebrating after signing a pro youth contract with Celtic.

The youngster, who turns 11 on Saturday, has been snapped up by the Hoops after being wooed by the Parkhead club and turning down the chance to stay at Scottish Premiership rivals Hibernian, where he has spent the past year following his move from local club Gartcairn.

The Hoops “rolled out the red carpet” for the talented left-sided defender, who can play at centre-half or wing back, and he will begin training with the Scottish champions’ youth setup from next week.

Proud dad John has told Lanarkshire Live Sport how Celtic gave his son the VIP treatment before he put pen to paper on an initial two-year deal.

Following the signing – where he was joined by John, mum Kirsty and sister Ebony – Salsburgh native Conlan also experienced a goosebumps moment as he walked out to the hallowed turf and saw his name on the big screen, welcoming him to the club.

John explained: “In mid-December I got a phone call from Hibs saying Celtic were interested in Conlan. That blew us away, we were a bit taken aback by it.

“A couple of weeks later we spoke to Hibs and they were desperate to keep Conlan but they also gave us permission to speak to Celtic.

Conlan Smith with dad John, mum Kirsty and sister Ebony at Celtic Park for his signing

“Celtic acted very quickly and we were invited into Celtic Park on December 21.

“We were greeted at reception and from thereon he got treated like a first team player.

“It was so surreal for all of us. He got a private tour round the stadium, they took him onto the pitch and he got taken to one of the executive boxes for lunch, where we all had a chat.

“They did a presentation on their academy and what they wanted to see him achieve with them.

“But they never put any pressure on him and let us go away and have a think about it.

“The next morning, Conlan got out of bed and told us he was going to go for it.

Conlan’s welcome message on the big screen

“When he came in to sign, he got presented with his own strip, signed his contract and they took him out onto the park where they had his name on the big screen.

“They really rolled the red carpet out for him.”

John added: “It was a dream come true and one that will live with the family forever.

“We know it’s a hard journey to make it and this is just the start for him, but where he has come in a short space of time is great and we are super proud of him.”

More sports news from across Lanarkshire

Conlan started out at Airdrie outfit Gartcairn as a five-year-old and in January last year he and his friend Ayden Gallagher were both snapped up by the Hibees.

Since joining the Edinburgh club, St Aloysius Primary School pupil Conlan caught the eye with his performances and the move to Parkhead was put in motion when he impressed Celtic scouts earlier this season.

John revealed: “Conlan has been moved up a few times at Hibs this season to play with the older age group.

“He played against Celtic as well and had a great game so we had an idea Celtic were interested after that game.

Conlan in the Celtic dressing room next to captain Callum McGregor’s shirt

“The scouts came to watch him in a game against Hearts after that and he had a great game, scored a goal, so it all went from there.

“He is leaving a great team behind at Hibs, where he has made many good friends for life, so it was a massive decision for him.

“Hibs and Celtic were so professional and it was one of the toughest calls I’ve had to make, telling Hibs he would be leaving.

“He goes into Celtic this week to start his training and hopefully he kicks on.”

Conlan is expected to start St Margaret’s High School in Airdrie this summer and then transfer to St Ninians in Kirkintilloch, who partner with Celtic’s Youth Academy, in third year to allow him to combine his studies with training at Lennoxtown.

All the latest sport news in Lanarkshire

Follow Lanarkshire Live Sport onTwitter via@LanLiveSport, like us onFacebookor find us onInstagramfor the latest sports news, pictures and video.

Daily Record – Motherwell