Tier­ney on his way to the top but has feet on the ground

Liver­pool and Arse­nal will have to wait if they want to sign Celtic prodigy


WHEN Kieran Tier­ney says be­com­ing a first-team star at Celtic hasn’t changed him one bit then you’re in­clined to believe him. The 19 year-old has been one of the un­doubted suc­cess sto­ries in Scot­tish foot­ball of re­cent times, a lo­cal lad who came through the ranks at the club he sup­ported as a boy, took the place of a cult hero in Emilio Iza­guirre, then went on to prove he more than mer­ited that jer­sey.

By the end of an in­cred­i­ble break­through cam­paign he had also made his de­but for his coun­try, been named Scot­land’s young player of the year and then rounded it all off by scor­ing his first se­nior goal on the last day of the sea­son. It could hardly have gone bet­ter.

There was ev­ery chance he would be Bren­dan Rodgers’ type of player given the North­ern Ir­ish­man’s track record of work­ing with young tal­ent and so it has proved.

Just one chat be­tween the pair was enough to per­suade Tier­ney to put pen to pa­per on a new five-year con­tract that should help ward off en­quiries as to his avail­abil­ity from the likes of Arse­nal and Liver­pool.

That level of in­ter­est would turn most young play­ers’ heads but when Tier­ney says he is flat­tered but never con­sid­ered it for a sec­ond then it doesn’t seem like he is spin­ning a line. Firstly, he has played just one full sea­son at first-team level so there is still a lot of de­vel­op­ing and learn­ing to be done.

A club where he is al­most guar­an­teed to be a first-team pick ev­ery week is the best place to do that. Se­condly, Tier­ney still has that wideeyed in­no­cence of a young guy who can’t believe he is play­ing for Celtic. The im­pres­sion lingers that, had he not be­come a foot­baller, he would be fol­low­ing the team home and away ev­ery week­end with his pals.

Should he con­tinue to de­velop at this in­cred­i­ble rate of knots – it is dif­fi­cult to re­call him putting a foot wrong last year, even in Europe – then the big­ger clubs will come call­ing again fur­ther down the line. And per­haps, older and more worldly-wise, he may have am­bi­tions then to try some­thing dif­fer­ent.

For now, though, he is happy with where he is.

His life, he in­sists, hasn’t changed at all in the past year, although he pre­sum­ably will have a fair bit more cash jan­gling in his pocket these days. There is more at­ten­tion on him when­ever he goes out, more folk look­ing for au­to­graphs or self­ies as it seems to be these days.

Tier­ney in­sists that is not a prob­lem at all. Af­ter all, it would be hyp­o­crit­i­cal for him to start be­com­ing all aloof when he was pes­ter­ing his own Celtic he­roes just a few short years ago.

He said: “My life hasn’t changed. I still go out with my friends and play the PlayS­ta­tion.

Noth­ing is dif­fer­ent for me. What I do isn’t dif­fer­ent but even just walk­ing about peo­ple will come up to you and ask for pic­tures.

“When you’re a wee guy you al­ways wanted to play for Celtic and you know the at­ten­tion is go­ing to come with it so you don’t mind that at all. I used to go up to play­ers as a kid, too.

“If I saw Bobo Balde in Tesco I would be up ask­ing him for a pic­ture! Ev­ery­one around me, even my team­mates, have helped keep my feet on the ground.

“My fam­ily and friends have been a great help to me.”

Per­haps the only thing Tier­ney didn’t achieve, through no fault of his own, was mak­ing it to the group stage of the Cham­pi­ons League. Hard as it seems to believe now, the full-back didn’t es­tab­lish him­self in the team un­til late Oc­to­ber mean­ing he was sat in the stand as Celtic failed to make it past Malmo in the play-off qual­i­fy­ing round.

He would go on to gain the ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing in four of Celtic’s six Europa League group games but now he has his eyes set on reach­ing the big­gest club stage of them all.

He added: “It’s re­ally im­por­tant to get back in to the Cham­pi­ons League. That’s what we’re work­ing to­wards. Not be­ing in it the past two years hurt ev­ery­body at the club. Ev­ery­one will ben­e­fit if we get in.

“Play­ing there is the next stage for me hope­fully. Last year we had the Europa League which was the level be­low ob­vi­ously.

“It was good to get that ex­pe­ri­ence but now I want to make the step up this sea­son.”

Tier­ney was still sport­ing the num­ber 63 on his Celtic gear yes­ter­day, per­haps an­other sign of a young tal­ent whose ego is very much in check. “I was happy to keep the same one, I don’t re­ally mind about num­bers. My dad says it’s the year he was born so I had to keep it! But it doesn’t bother me too much.”

It’s re­ally im­por­tant to get back in to the Cham­pi­ons League. That’s what we’re work­ing to­wards. Not be­ing in it the past two years hurt ev­ery­body at the club

CAUSE FOR CEL­E­BRA­TION: Kieran Tier­ney has com­mit­ted his im­me­di­ate to mid-term fu­ture to Celtic

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