JAZE KABIA has been thrown in at the deep end.
However, early indications are that the Livingston striker is more than capable of swimming.
The 20-year-old joined the Lions from Shelbourne earlier this month, initially arriving as something of a prospect for the future. Tenacious, raw and with a ferocious shot, manager David Martindale was of a mind to loan him out.
Instead, his performances in training immediately thrust him into contention for top-flight minutes and he was handed a baptism of fire when he entered the fray as a substitute in last week’s 2-2 draw against Celtic.
Even an errant arm in the face from Scott Brown – resulting in the Hoops skipper’s dismissal – did not sour a dream evening.
“Nothing was taking the smile off my face that night,” he laughed. “Nine years in a row they’ve won the title so I was immediately playing against the best players this country has. I feel privileged to have this opportunity and I’m loving every minute.
“My phone was ringing off the hook from folk back in Ireland after it. It was just brilliant to get on and a great result.”
A trip to Hampden as part of the travelling part for the Betfred Cup semi-final followed. While he was not called upon to feature, he watched his teammates reach a major final which he could very well be a part of.
To cap his whirlwind week, Kabia notched his first goal in gold on Wednesday night, breaking the deadlock in the closing stages against Kilmarnock before Scott Pittman sealed the 2-0 win; a 12th match without defeat for the rampant West Lothian side.
“It’s been surreal,” beamed the youngster. “I’m grateful that the gaffer [Martindale] showed faith in me. He’s been brilliant with me, kept me on my toes and I’m glad I’ve repaid him with a goal.
“But that’s just the start. I’ve plenty more hard work to put in.
“I’ve only been here two and a half weeks and already feel that I’m developing in leaps and bounds.”
The fact Kabia has hit the ground running in the Scottish Premiership should perhaps come as no surprise. After all, he has handled every step up so far with aplomb.
At Cobh Ramblers – the club famous for cultivating the talents of Roy Keane – he was a first-team player by the age of 17 and regularly rippled the net in the League of Ireland.
That was enough to catch the eye of Dublin powerhouse Shelbourne, for whom he thrived for 18 months.
However, Kabia is a young man in a hurry to climb the ladder.
“I just felt I needed to make another step forward in my career,” he explained. “So I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to come here.
“There were quite a few clubs interested – I went down to Ipswich on trial – but I didn’t really need to go anywhere else after Livingston.
“I knew how good this opportunity was after my week’s trial and it was a no brainer.”
And Kabia already has a fine blueprint for using Livingston as a stepping stone to a fine career – as Shelbourne fans were quick to remind him when he completed the switch to Scotland.
“Wes Hoolahan moved from Shelbourne to Livingston,” added Kabia. “The Shelbourne fans were all posting to say Wes made that move too . . . if I have a career like his it won’t be a bad one.”