Celtic’s Kieran Tierney thanks Ronny Deila for elevating him

Kieran Tierney is a nominee for PFA Scotland Player of the Year. Picture: SNS
Kieran Tierney is a nominee for PFA Scotland Player of the Year. Picture: SNS
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Ronny Deila’s ill-fated reign at Parkhead may be regarded negatively by the majority of passionate Celtic supporters but as far as Kieran Tierney is concerned, he is the greatest.

Deila will step down as head coach on 15 May after two seasons in charge, largely because of his inability to reach the Champions League group phase and the lack of trust in the Celtic board to give him a third attempt.

Semi-final defeats by Inverness Caley Thistle, Ross County and, of course, a resurgent Rangers were equally damaging with dwindling attendances also significant in his demise.

Tierney, however, will be forever grateful to the Norwegian for having the belief to drag him out of development football into the first team where he has flourished and become one of the most exciting talents the Scottish game has seen for many years.

Already voted Celtic’s Young Player of the Year, the 18-year-old full-back is almost certain to win the PFA Scotland award, although there are strong arguments for his fellow nominees Jason Cummings, John McGinn and 
Barrie McKay.

He has all the qualities needed for a modern full-back the way he defends aggressively, presses the ball and gets forward to create openings and he is happy to admit he owes it all to Deila.

Tierney, who made his Scotland debut last month, said: “The manager has been great with me and I can’t thank him enough.

“He has said a lot of good things about me and that has given me confidence as well. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be sitting here right now.

“When I came up to under-20s football I was sitting on the bench every week and I wasn’t getting much chance to show.

“But he watched training as well – he wasn’t just watching games – and he liked the way I trained.

“It just went from there and he put me up to the first team and started playing with the 20s more and more. He has done everything for me.”

Deila had the conviction to plunge Tierney into the European arena in only his third first-team match and that was a pivotal moment.

However, Tierney really knew he had arrived when he made it into the Fifa 16 video game which earned him a ribbing from his close friends. The teenager said: “I think my third game was against Fenerbahce and I suddenly realised this was big, this was hard but where I want to play.

“I knew I couldn’t get too nervous because I was playing against people like van Persie and Nani.

“I think at the time Nani had won more Premier League titles than I had appearances. People were telling me that going into the game, but I couldn’t think about it.

“I think I got belief from that game that I could play at that level. The manager and the fans let me know that they felt I had done OK at Europa League level which was great to hear.

“What I do in life hasn’t changed but when I walk about I do get recognised. I still go home and do the same things.

“I think the biggest change for me this year has been moving from Xbox to PlayStation! I have found the buttons difficult to get used to. I’m on it but I’m not that good. All my pals slag me because I’m the worst rated in the team.

“I guess it’s a sign of how I’m doing that I’m on there. When you’re a wee guy you make a guy called Kieran Tierney, so it’s good.

“I haven’t bought myself yet – no chance. It’s not worth it! 
The likeness is not really there – well they’ve got my hair right!”

As Celtic attempt to effectively wrap up the tiitle tomorrow with victory at Tynecastle, Tierney knows he will have to start all over again in the summer and try to impress Deila’s replacement.

He added: “We will all need to impress him. It won’t matter what we have done in the previous season.

“Tynecastle is a very difficult place to go and we saw that the last time we were there. We want to wrap the title up as quickly as we can and we want to give the manager a good send-off.”