Stuart McLaren has been tasked with continuing the development of Celtic’s academy youngsters after being appointed as the club’s new under-18s manager.
The 46-year-old, who replaces Darren O’Dea after his promotion to the Hoops B team, has left his role at the Scottish FA where he coached the Under-16s and spent a brief period as interim manager of the women’s national team in January 2021.
The Scottish-Australian spent his youth career down under playing professionally before returning to Scotland with Stirling Albion, whom he would later manage, and Hamilton Accies.
McLaren, a centre-back, returned to Australia for the remainder of his playing career before stepping into his first coaching role in 2003.
He admits the lure of working with some one of the country’s most exciting youth players was a huge factor in his decision to join the Parkhead club.
McLaren told Celtic TV: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be here - with the stature of the club it’s obviously well-known and that was a huge attraction.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Scottish FA and it was a real honour to be a national team coach, but the intermittent activity is a challenge.
“The chance to come here and work with some of the best and most talented young players we have in Scotland on a regular basis and try to support them as they further their career was a lure too good to turn down.”
McLaren is well aware that not every youth player in the club’s academy will make it as a professional footballer but he is eager to make sure their experience is a positive one.
He stated: “Obviously at first-team level it is sorely about gaining results. I like seeing players further their careers and try to progress onto better things and all that encompasses.
“Some of the players we have here you hope will go on and do good things for the first team and get to play in a magnificent stadium and help the club achieve all its aims and ambitions - playing in the Champions League and winning trophies.
“Some you hope you can support them on their journey elsewhere in football and some unfortunately we know won’t make the grade, but we hope their experience in the academy at Celtic stands them in good stead whatever path their life takes them on.”
During his playing career, McLaren left Brisbane Roar only a couple of months before Ange Postecoglou took charge of the A-League side but explained their “paths crossed” briefly when he stepped into a player/manager role in the tier below.
He stated: “I was well aware of Ange and our paths crossed mainly when he became the head coach of Brisbane Roar.
“Unfortunately I had finished playing there a few months beforehand so I never got the joy of working under him as a player.
“I’ve watched on with good pride, as a fellow Aussie in a sense, as he’s gone on to achieve the things that he has, and it’s not a surprise to me that he’s started in the fashion he has.
“I’m sure that everyone connected with Celtic is thrilled with the impact he’s made, and we can all look forward to hopefully a period of success that Ange will bring.”
McLaren will take his place in the dugout for the first time on Friday when Celtic Under-18s face Aberdeen at Cormack Park.
Head of Celtic’s Youth Academy, Chris McCart commented: “Stuart performed very well with his interview and practical session.
“Our process was very thorough and we are delighted that Stuart came through as the successful candidate.
“We would also like to thank the SFA and in particular Andy Gould (Chief Football Officer) for allowing Stuart to join us.”