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