Eight years ago on Tannadice Street, a very special generation of footballers was blossoming.

Dundee United weren't able to admire the full bloom of their wee, hungry petals; season 13/14 would be the last season Andy Robertson, Ryan Gauld, John Souttar, Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven would play for the same team at the same time.

Three of the aforementioned quintet are associated with Celtic to some degree. The latter two were part of Brendan Rodgers' invincible squad after being signed during the Ronny Deila era while the club famously turned their nose up at Robertson during his teenage years.

The five are spread across the spectrum of footballing success. Andy Robertson has won the most major of trophies available to him as a Liverpool player and is the captain of Scotland; Stuart Armstrong is a regular starter for Southampton in the English Premier League after enjoying a couple of open-top bus parades through down the Gallowgate, alongside Gary Mackay-Steven who is now at Hearts after a spell with New York City in MLS, the same league in which Ryan Gauld now plies his trade with Vancouver Whitecaps after a standout season for Farense in Portugal's top tier.

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The odd one out, in a way, is John Souttar. While the rest smile or reminisce at medals and payslips, current or old, and scroll through photos of them playing against the continent or world's best, John Souttar's most common photo is him with his thumbs up while garnished with a gown on a hospital bed.

While luck hasn't been on Souttar's side since his career started, time still is. Since he made his debut, aged just 16, in a 2-2 with Aberdeen in 2013, injury has prevented Souttar from taking part in 133 games of club football. 11,970 minutes of on-field action have ticked by with him either watching from home, the stand or the substitutes bench.

Ankle and knee problems have been troublesome, keeping him out for months at a time on more than one occasion, but his real nemesis has been his Achilles tendon which has ruptured three times, most recently last August and only five months after it snapped just before the country went into lockdown.

But after reaching full fitness towards the tail end of last season, as Hearts cantered to the Scottish Championship title, Souttar has started this term impressively as part of an unbeaten Hearts side and so, naturally joins the likes of Kevin Nisbet, Martin Boyle and Lewis Ferguson as potential solutions, or improvements, to the seemingly never-ending squad depth problem Celtic have. Enticingly for Celtic, compared to being quoted and charged upwards of three, four or five million pounds as they may be for one of that trio, Souttar is out of contract at Hearts once this season is finished.

Celtic Way: Souttar begins to celebrate after scoring a late winner against CelticSouttar begins to celebrate after scoring a late winner against Celtic

Celtic aren't stuck for centre-half options. How good those options are is a separate matter but currently, Carl Starfelt, Christopher Jullien, Stephen Welsh and, albeit a Spurs loanee, Cameron Carter-Vickers are the four senior options Ange Postecoglou has to choose from.

When all are fit and available - it's only Jullien who isn't at the moment - it's tough to predict who Postecoglou will prioritise as his first-choice pairing and with Souttar, who's only just turned 25, catching the eye for Hearts, speculative suitability for either of Glasgow's clubs duly follows.

Souttar's centre-half USP since breaking through at United has been his ability to pass his way out of defence and stride forward with the ball, rather than stop attackers in their tracks and clear it as quickly as possible. Postecoglou demands his centre-halves are willing and capable of taking the ball from their goalkeeper before playing it to the feet of one of the inverted full-backs, the centre-mid who's filled the half-space, or the central attacker looking to link the play.

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His passing in the league this season, from the right of a back three in Gorgie, has yielded an 80 per cent success rate on average, including 83 per cent while under extreme pressure from an intensive Celtic press during the League Cup game in Parkhead.

Okay, but Carl Starfelt has a 95 per cent pass completion rate in the Premiership this season, while Ross McCrorie, who's part of a struggling Aberdeen side, has achieved the same numbers as Souttar, so that's just the bare minimum for centre-halves who don't find themselves under duress too often. Not while the ball is being given to them by their last line of defence or partner, anyway.

Souttar isn't shy in attempting longer passes either though and tries it around five times a game if he sees the right amount of space awaiting the recipient. Just more than half of these passes this season have found their target which, if similar instructions are employed at Celtic, could be beneficial for the quick legs of Jota, Abada, Forrest and Kyogo when they work but would also require Postecoglou to open his mind to other styles of play.

Celtic Way: Souttar carries the ball all the way to the edge of the Hibs penalty box after receiving it hereSouttar carries the ball all the way to the edge of the Hibs penalty box after receiving it here

He's comfortable with the ball at his feet too, rather than just playing it directly to someone else's. Souttar has roamed progressively forward with the ball 10 times in six games this season, helping transition the ball through at least one-third of the pitch and succeeding in any sort of dribbles 71 per cent of the time.

Defensively, Souttar has been doing well too. Probably most impressive is his lack of fouls so far this season - just the four - and the weirdly low amount of times he slides to win the ball, which he hasn't felt like he's had to do in five of the seven games he's played in the Premiership.

Those stats probably underline the others in terms of his defending, because Souttar's intelligence and reading of the game is superb. He intercepts the ball five times per match on average and under wave after wave of attack at Celtic Park earlier this season did it on 11 occasions. He also wins 71 per cent of his defensive duels while protecting his own goal and wins nearly two-thirds of the ones he participates in while attacking the other one - which Celtic found out to their immense frustration on the opening day of the season.

Celtic Way: Souttar has already transferred his weight to get to the ball before ForrestSouttar has already transferred his weight to get to the ball before Forrest

A good range of passing, ability to read the game, strength in the air and power when running forward with the ball. Souttar's definitely got the attributes required of a "modern-day" centre-half.

I can vividly remember writing Souttar off when he was barely out of his mid-teens. "Too many mistakes", I said to my mates. "Loses the ball too often", "Too risky for a centre-half." What a narrow-minded view of a boy who was still learning his trade and is showing now he's the jack of more than just one.

As far as a move to Celtic goes? It's a subject worth revisiting in the summer once another season, for which he'll hopefully remain full fit, has passed.