There aren’t many players who would boast they have never missed a game all season after spending three months out injured. Kieran Tierney is no ordinary footballer, though.
The Celtic left-back may have been linked with all manner of eight-figure sum moves to the English Premier League’s glitterati, but the 19-year-old remains the supporter who has made good.
He was only able to make his comeback from an ankle ligament injury sustained in late October in the first game after the winter shutdown – which left him reduced to watching his club’s 2-1 victory over Rangers at Ibrox on Hogmanay from the stands. But that didn’t spoil the occasion.
“It was brilliant. I enjoyed the game,” he said. “I was in the first row of the top tier. It was easy to see me if you were down the front. It was a great day. I don’t think I missed any games in the three months I was out. To be back as a fan like I was years ago was good for me.
“I’d been to Ibrox a few times as a supporter. One of the best times was when [Georgios] Samaras scored twice and we won 2-0 [in January 2011]. I remember the one when Scott McDonald chest, kneed and volleyed it [to give Celtic a 1-0 win in December 2008].
“Times like that were obviously brilliant. It’s a great day out if you win. I was with the people I normally get tickets for. They’ve been going all their lives. They’d have been there whether I was there or not.
“It gives you a sense of appreciation. You need to use it as a positive. I was looking at Emilio [Izaguirre] to see what he was doing and looking at the other full-backs to try and learn more about the game.”
Against St Johnstone in Perth tomorrow, Tierney will play his fifth game since returning to Brendan Rodgers’ side. He has yet to endure the experience of seeing his team lose a goal, never mind fail to win a game, as their post-war record-setting 28-match unbeaten domestic run has allowed them to rack up 18 straight league wins. Their recent Premiership victories have been achieved without a recognised striker or key attackers. The quartet in that bracket – Moussa Dembele, Leigh Griffiths, Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic – have all returned to light training, Celtic assistant manager Chris Davies related yesterday, but he would not be drawn on whether that placed any of them in contention for the encounter at McDiarmid Park.
It seems that whoever features for Celtic right now are destined to be on the winning side. A dangerous assumption that Tierney maintained Rodgers’ squad will never make.
“You can’t go on [to the pitch] thinking you’re going to win,” the teenager said. “You can believe in it and in yourself, but you can’t go in with an attitude that the game is won. You still need to work as hard as ever.
“There’s no easy games. You need to go out and win, it won’t come naturally because of a winning streak. It’s down to hard work and preparation on the training ground.”
Nowhere is that more evident than in the synergy between Scott Sinclair and Tierney down Celtic’s left flank. The youngster believes camaraderie as well as coaching have a part to play in that.
“We have a good kind of understanding with each other,” said Tierney. “You need that. People are seeing that off the park, too.
“Everybody works on partnerships but it goes further than that. Off the park you need to know what each other are like.”