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Stephen McManus: From Hoops debut to title-winning captain

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FOUR years is a long time in football. For Hoops star Stephen McManus, it was the difference between making his Celtic debut and lifting the league title as captain.

A product of the club’s Youth Academy, the 6’2” centre-half from Lanark was signed on a professional deal in the summer of 2003, and would make his first appearance in the senior side, 16 years ago today, at the tail end of the 2003/04 trail.

In a 4-0 win over Hibs at Easter Road on March 21, 2004, McManus not only played for a full 90 minutes (alongside fellow Academy graduate John Kennedy), he also assisted Didier Agathe for the opening goal. Henrik Larsson hit a double thereafter – goals which saw him become Celtic’s third-top scorer of all time – before Agathe also secured a brace.

Interestingly, future Celts Gary Caldwell, Derek Riordan and Scott Brown all featured for the home side that afternoon, which saw the latter lock horns with Hoops boss Neil Lennon in the centre of midfield.

From there, McManus’ career went from strength to strength as he matured into a formidable Celtic centre-half. When Neil Lennon left Paradise as a player in the summer of 2007, 'Big Mick', as he was affectionately known, was handed the captain’s armband.

Historic wins in the UEFA Champions League followed – not least a 2-1 win over AC Milan at Celtic Park, within which the defender scored the opening goal – as did a league title triumph at Tannadice on the final day of the 2007/08 campaign.

“It goes without saying that it was an awesome feeling to lift my first trophy as captain,” McManus told the Celtic View after the 1-0 win over Dundee United on May 22, 2008. “Words can't explain the emotions running through my mind as I stepped up to lift the championship trophy - it was a special moment.

“I've enjoyed so many fantastic occasions since breaking into the Celtic first-team but, without doubt, that was a major highlight. To captain your boyhood heroes to the title on the final day of the season is the stuff dreams are made of.

“You know when you are appointed captain of Celtic that with it comes a massive responsibility. But perhaps the biggest responsibility is to be a winning captain and lift trophies. I've thoroughly enjoyed the captaincy. I wouldn't have changed it for the world. God, I'm one of a chosen few who have been lucky enough to captain this great club.”

McManus left the club for Middlesbrough in the summer of 2010, before spending four years at Motherwell from 2013 to 2017. Last year, the ex-defender returned to Paradise to assume control of Celtic’s Under-18s squad. He now works alongside Tommy McIntyre with the reserves squad.

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