GREG Taylor must loathe the word ‘but’.

It is a conjunction usually used, in relation to him at least, to undercut even his most impressive performances.

He’s OK… but surely he’s a squad player at best.

No harm to him… but he’s hardly Kieran Tierney is he?

He’s a trier… but he’s not Celtic class.

You get the picture.

The thing is, this perception of Taylor is partly correct. Although he possesses plenty of energy and boundless stamina – and is not by any means slow – he does not have game-changing pace in his locker which means he generally ‘beats’ a man with under or overlapping runs rather than in an isolated one-v-one situation.

Like Josip Juranovic on the opposite flank, Taylor isn’t particularly adept in the air either so it often feels like his area of the pitch is just waiting to be targeted with long, high balls in the channel to a pacey winger – and it has panned out that way on occasion already this term.

For a generally capable player with those holes in his game to follow a generational talent like Tierney, who excelled in such areas, must be difficult. It was perhaps destined to have a bit of a Moyes-after-Ferguson feel to it from the get-go.

Yet Taylor has, eventually, made the left-back position his own since joining Celtic from Kilmarnock in September 2019, three weeks after Tierney left for Arsenal. So much so that the club is now poised to offer the 23-year-old fresh terms to stay in green and white for a couple more years.

That he is reportedly still on the same deal he signed after arriving from Killie presumably means any new contract is relatively cost-effective too, in the grand scheme of things.

Whether some choose to see that as just one more indication of Celtic’s lack of ambition or not, the perseverance and attitude required for Taylor to even get to this stage is worthy of some admiration at least.

At first, Boli Bolingoli started the 2019-20 season in the left-back slot. Before the season was out, a combination of injury and Taylor’s emergence saw the Scot finish the Covid-shortened season as Neil Lennon’s first-pick rather than the Belgian.

Celtic Way:

Bolingoli’s well-publicised coronavirus rules violations led to his Celtic exile at the beginning of the next campaign yet even before that happened Taylor was, by and large, preferred as the starting left-back.

Shortly after his subsequent suspension, Bolingoli joined Istanbul Başakşehir for the rest of the season. In response, Lennon recruited Diego Laxalt on loan from AC Milan and – harshly, it could be argued – put him straight into the team ahead of Taylor for the Glasgow derby just days later.

Celtic Way:

The Uruguayan was handed regular game-time in the side throughout the rest of the season but largely flattered to deceive and ultimately Taylor managed to clock up 2,390 minutes of action – behind only mainstays Callum McGregor, Kristoffer Ajer, Ryan Christie, Scott Brown, Odsonne Edouard and Mohamed Elyounoussi – to again end the season with the starter’s jersey.

This term, well, since the arrival of Ange Postecoglou there can be no remaining doubt as to who is the undisputed first-choice left-back at Parkhead.

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Before suffering shoulder problems against AZ Alkmaar, Taylor was the main man on the left as the new manager sought to instil his footballing philosophy at Celtic. His deputy, Adam Montgomery, performed well when called upon in that match but was then overlooked for the derby at Ibrox as Postecoglou opted to play newly-arrived right-back Juranovic out of position instead.

It does not seem like the Bolingoli’s surprising recall against Livingston will herald the Belgian’s return to the first-XI fold permanently - and the jury is still out on summer signing Liam Scales with only a half-hour outing against Raith Rovers in the League Cup to go on thus far - so it appears Taylor’s place in the team is pretty secure when he returns from injury.

What do the stats say?

Celtic Way:

The StatsBomb full-backs radar above shows Taylor’s relative domestic quality in intercepting the ball, deep progressions, passing accuracy, involvement in build-up play, tackles-dribbled past percentage and also in not giving away fouls. Conversely, it statistically confirms his ongoing weakness in the air, as well as that lack of dribbling ability discussed earlier.

Celtic Way:

Comparing Taylor only to his main understudy this season makes for interesting reading too. The ex-Killie defender beats Montgomery in most categories – he intercepts more often per game, passes more accurately, is more involved in build-up play and exerts more pressures on opponents.

While Taylor’s shortcomings in aerial duels and beating a man are already noted against Premiership averages, the fact that Montgomery outperforms his more experienced team-mate in deep progressions and successful dribbles perhaps speaks to his relatively recent conversion to full-back from left wing.

To the 19-year-old’s credit, however, he also gets the nod not just in aerial wins (for which his stats are quality even league-wide) but also by making over two tackles (PAdj) more than Taylor does per game.

So is the perceived apathy towards Taylor a Moyes-after-Ferguson phenomenon right enough? No matter how ably he performed, was he always likely to be given scant leeway for any limitations due to the quality and popularity of the man he replaced?

Celtic Way:

There is a little of that, for sure, but there is still a happy medium to be found with Taylor. It is absolutely reasonable to think he is both an acceptable level of player for Celtic right now and also that the club may want to look at more left-backs if a higher-quality one is available. The two needn't be mutually exclusive.

And Taylor does contribute directly to the cause after all. This term WyScout data tells us he has played a role in five clean sheets and garnered two assists in his 11 games before injury struck.

He is also one of only two defenders in the league’s top 10 for key passes per game (Borna Barisic of Rangers is the other) and he is the only defender at all in the division’s top 10 for deep completions – essentially passing into the opposition's danger zone.

On a game-by-game basis, meanwhile, he plays around double the number of forward passes than backwards so any inclination that he is constantly safety-first is also slightly misguided.

It is unsurprising, then, that the club is set to offer such a player a new deal. Even if there are plans afoot to recruit a higher-quality left-back in January or next summer, Taylor is, as it stands, the best one currently at Celtic. No buts about that.