IT did not take Remi Matthews long to realise that Luca Connell was something special.

The teenager wandered on to the training ground almost directly from Nicky Spooner’s Under-18s set-up and was a relative unknown to the first team squad.

But within a short time, Matthews and Co were convinced that the Liverpudlian midfielder was going to cut it with the big boys – and it did not take long before others got wind of his progress too.

Connell proved to be a rare shining light in a dark season for the Whites and it was no great surprise when the interest which first emerged in January then got more serious this summer.

Celtic now lead the chase for Connell and have opened discussions with Bolton’s administrators over a fee. The deal could potentially be passed on to new ownership but it looks increasingly like the 18-year-old will be playing his football under ex-Bolton boss Neil Lennon at Parkhead next season.

Matthews is in no rush to lose Connell, whose continued presence would be a major boost for Wanderers’ chance in League One. But if he did complete a move North of the Border, the former Norwich City keeper has no doubts his team-mate could cut it in the SPL.

“From day one, he has been sensational,” he said.

“I didn’t really know too much about him really until about two weeks before his debut, because he hadn’t really been training with the first team.

“Then, all of a sudden, he appeared one day, and you could tell straight away that there was something there.

“Within a couple of weeks, the manager had no choice really but to throw him into the team, because he had acquitted himself so well.

“You never really know how a youngster is going to be able to handle that, and especially with the circumstances he was going into. We were really struggling and there was so much uncertainty around the place, but he wasn’t fazed at all.

“He took to it like a duck to water and he was a standout straight away. He’s a top player.

“If he is to move on, and I hope he doesn’t, then I can’t think of many better places for him to go than Celtic.

“I would have no worries at all about him going up there and handling the expectation that comes with playing for such a massive club in front of 60,000 people. He has the right sort of mentality for that, and he certainly has the ability to go up there and make an impact.

“He’s an Ireland international now as well, so all of that will stand him in good stead whatever happens.”

Injury meant Connell was deprived a chance to make his debut for Mick McCarthy’s Republic earlier this month but the general consensus in the Ireland camp is that his time will come again soon.

Matthews feels his creativity would shine through playing at the top level in Scotland.

“He is so talented,” he told The Herald. “He’s a really rounded player.

“He’s not flashy in the sense that he won’t go and beat a man, but he has a phenomenal range of passing, and there is no doubt at all in my mind that if he was to go to Celtic, he would be their leading assist provider by the end of the season. That’s how good he is.

“He doesn’t really have weakness in his game. Sometimes, midfield players can be good going forward, but a bit lacking in a defensive sense, or vice-versa.

“Luca is great going both ways though. He knows his responsibilities on the pitch, and he isn’t afraid to put a shift in.

“He also has a great engine, so he can get about the park and contribute at both ends of the field.

“As I say, he’s a big, big talent, and from a selfish perspective I just hope we can hold onto him, because he has become an important player for us, as he would be for any team that he goes to in the future. And I would include Celtic in that.”