When the Celtic squad departed for Australia ahead of the Sydney Super Cup, two among their number stood out.

With first-team quartet Cameron Carter-Vickers, Josip Juranovic, Aaron Mooy and Daizen Maeda off to the World Cup, Ange Postecolgou called on Rocco Vata and Bosun Lawal to fill in for the trip Down Under.

Officially, this is merely a friendly tournament and all-round lucrative marketing exercise.

Unofficially, it’s a mid-season pre-season aimed at keeping the non-World Cup players ticking over and preparing them for the rigours going for a domestic treble will bring from December 17 onwards.

Both 19-year-old Lawal and Vata, 17, were taken on the club’s actual pre-season. They featured in minimal game-time; Vata played and scored a cracker against Wiener Viktoria as well as a cameo against Blackburn while Lawal took the field against those same teams plus Rapid Vienna and Banik Ostrava.

Since then Lawal — a signing from Watford last summer — has been a regular for the B team in the Lowland League with an impressive five goals from 13 centre-back appearances.

But let’s talk more about Vata. As the son of former Celtic defender Rudi, he has naturally carried a more public profile than most of his contemporaries since emerging in the youth system.

While many players nowadays are nominally listed under the catch-all term ‘forward’ when it comes to position, Vata has legitimately featured across the front three during his game-time with Celtic B, the UEFA Youth League and internationally.

Of the regular B team contingent who have played in half of the side’s games or more, Vata is the third-youngest behind Josh Dede and Corey Thomson. 

He has played the second-most minutes of all B team players behind Dylan Corr and is the team’s leading goalscorer with nine in 16 across the Lowland League and Challenge Cup campaigns. Vata also found the net with the under-19s during the UEFA Youth League group stages, netting a first-minute opener in the 2-1 win over RB Leipzig.

He currently represents the Republic of Ireland at youth international level (15s through 19s) but is also eligible for Albania, Montenegro and Scotland. 

In that regard he has consistently played above his age group at youth level, making his under-17s Ireland debut just two months after his under-16s bow and promptly graduating to the under-19s setup at not even 17-and-a-half.

This season alone he started the impressive Challenge Cup fightback against League Two side Albion Rovers by scoring the first of Celtic’s trio of strikes in a 3-2 win from 2-0 down while, remarkably, he hasn’t yet gone more than three successive games without scoring for the B team. 

Indeed, Vata leaves for Sydney off the back of four goals in two matches including a quality hat-trick against Broomhill that included a poacher's follow-up, a right-footed smasher and an alert chasedown-turned-dribble combo that left a bamboozled Broomhill defender rooted to the spot in his own six-yard area.

In short, that seat on the plane to Sydney is fully merited and Postecoglou’s recent promise of game-time is no token gift.

Yet the depth of quality in front of him in the Celtic pecking order is considerable.

Jota is a bonafide star, Sead Haksabanovic is on his way to joining him in the stratosphere and James Forrest has settled into a squad role well. 

Daizen Maeda, meanwhile, has the sincere trust of the manager as well as an infectious engine and Liel Abada, who has just turned 21, is a prodigious talent with insane underlying numbers for a player of his age and experience.

That's not even mentioning the central strikers, the small matter of current leading scorer Kyogo Furuhashi and last season's top Premiership marksman Giorgos Giakoumakis.

Last season, Vata’s youth team-mate Owen Moffat garnered some minutes and picked up a League Cup medal but ultimately could not force his way in properly.

He chose to leave during the summer with a path to the first-team this season seeming virtually non-existent beyond some training sessions. Ewan Henderson did the same with his Hibs move.

Likewise, Ben Doak. A part of the team that obliterated Rangers 3-0 at Parkhead in February, the newly-turned 17-year-old is making headlines across the UK this season - but for Liverpool rather than Celtic.

Initially placed in the youth team on Merseyside, he was handed his senior Reds debut in the League Cup earlier this month and bagged himself a new, professional, contract in the process. 

Liam Hepburn, Karamoko Dembele, Leo Hjelde, Armstrong Okoflex, Aaron Hickey…  there are plenty of prospects in recent seasons who actively chose to depart Lennoxtown ostensibly due to the lack of first-team pathway.

Celtic Way:

You cannot blame them. For a while now Celtic, a club that rightly prides itself on fielding a European Cup-winning squad made up almost entirely of homegrown talent, would routinely struggle to assemble a viable five-a-side of fully-fledged graduates.

If nothing else, it serves to reinforce that Celtic as a club is not immune to the undertow of modern football business.

Preferring to buy in talent – however young – over nurturing their own has worked under Ange Postecoglou. A massive turnover of players has seen 23 new recruits encompassing 16 different nationalities in just three transfer windows.

Meanwhile no new homegrown players — save the somewhat enforced chance Anthony Ralston received last summer and to a considerably lesser extent Mikey Johnston, now away in Portugal on loan — have really had the opportunity to make a mark.

You’ll note Stephen Welsh, like Johnston a pre-Postecoglou graduate, was pretty swiftly relegated to a spectator’s role as soon as the centre-back pool widened. Same with Adam Montgomery and the left-back slot.

Yet as long as the current recruitment choices keep working - and it must be said working spectacularly well - then there’s no logical reason to change. Unless it’s a choice.

In that regard, Postecoglou himself is hardly at fault for the wider youth blockage but has already set out his stall as a manager who will drag the club into the 21st century, kicking and screaming in some ways.

Part of that vision does include homegrown talent progressing into the first team.

“You deal with every case individually,” Postecoglou said earlier this season. “This year we’ve closely aligned the B team with the first team so that they’re training up here at Lennoxtown.

“I see them every day, I talk to the coaches every day. We’re aware of the progress they’re all making and we feel confident we can provide them a pathway to becoming Celtic footballers in the near future.”

The alignment Postecoglou speaks of is most conspicuously seen in the move to assign Stephen McManus and Darren O’Dea to the B team. It is directly related to this long-term vision. 

@thecelticway__ Celtic Way Tik Tok 1 - Tuesday November 15th #celticfc #scotlandtiktok #australia🇦🇺 #angepostecoglou #celtic ♬ original sound - thecelticway__

“When the players first come, of course they’ve got big aspirations and they want to conquer the world, if you like,” O’Dea said of the youth pathway. “But the reality really hits when you come up to Lennoxtown – you’re one pitch away from the first-team at all times.

“The first team regularly dips into the B team for training numbers. It usually happens before training but it can happen during training, so they don’t know when the opportunity is going to come.

“That realisation of all the talk we did when they were 16 and they first came in, and the big dreams they had, they’re much closer than what they maybe understand. They have to be in a rhythm of training every day and being prepared right.

“So it’s a key message for them – those dreams you’re talking about, albeit the step is absolutely huge, it might not be as far away as you think.”

And remember: while the pathway may have stalled in recent years we are not so far removed from the Ronny Deila and Brendan Rodgers years when, even despite considerable transfer market activity, current club captain Callum McGregor made the breakthrough as did Kieran Tierney. 

James Forrest was already in that team, having made his name in Neil Lennon’s first spell . Others — such as Darnell Fisher, Jackson Irvine, Marcus Fraser, Liam Henderson and almost dozens more — were all at various points ‘in and around’ the first-team squad as the saying goes. 

Most don’t make it. That much is simply a given at a club the size of Celtic. But that those players and many others have made a career for themselves away from Parkhead is still in a way a Lennoxtown success story.

But what of Forrest, McGregor, Tierney, Ralston? Few in number though they are, they all have something in common. 

Whether it’s Forrest when the chips were down at Kilmarnock and Hibs in 2010, McGregor after his famous Notts County loan spell, Tierney in his unlikely training chance or Ralston last season when given a new deal with no other right-backs in the squad… they made themselves unignorable when the opportunity arose. 

Is Vata unignorable? As talented as he is and as impressive as his B team campaign has been, not yet.

But that’s where Sydney comes in...