Stephen Halliday: Manxman Kieran Tierney making headlines at home

Isle of Man-born Kieran Tierney has impressed in his first-team outings for Celtic. Picture: SNS Group
Isle of Man-born Kieran Tierney has impressed in his first-team outings for Celtic. Picture: SNS Group
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Even in a dressing room as multi-cultural as Celtic’s, Kieran Tierney’s background is just a little bit out of the ordinary.

The 18-year-old, who is currently making a powerful case to become the first choice left-back for Ronny Deila’s side, is as Scottish as they come on the face of it.

If you are born on the Isle of Man, you can play for any of the four home nations. But you can also play for the Isle of Man as well. It’s something I’d like to do

Kieran Tierney

But despite being brought up in Wishaw, Tierney is passionate about his roots as one of the Isle of Man’s rare sporting success stories. He was born on the British crown dependency when his father worked there and retains contact with several family members who remain on the island.

His breakthrough at Celtic has been headline news in the Isle of Man whose greatest claim to sporting fame normally comes through cyclist Mark Cavendish or their hosting of the TT motorcycle race. Tierney’s immediate international ambitions lie with Scotland and he was named this week in Scot Gemmill’s under-19 squad for next month’s European Championship qualifying tournament in Republic of Ireland. But the teenager has not ruled out the prospect of representing the place of his birth following the recent establishment of a squad called Ellan Vannin – the local Manx language name for Isle of Man – as members of the Confederation of Independent Football Associations.

Tierney was invited last year to play for Ellan Vannin at the inaugural ConIFA World Football Cup in Sweden, a tournament for autonomous regions, territories and dependencies not currently recognised by Fifa or Uefa. The Isle of Man has a bigger population than present Uefa members Gibraltar, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Faroe Islands and San Marino. Although unable to answer their call on that occasion, which saw Ellan Vannin finish runners-up to County of Nice in the final, Tierney is open to the prospect of wearing their colours in future.

“It’s a strange one, but I’m proud of being from Isle of Man,” said Tierney. “I go back to visit quite a lot and I get a lot of support from people on the island. My dad went over there for work and my parents stayed there for a few years before they had me. I was about 10 months or so when they moved back to Scotland and we’ve been here ever since.

“I’ve got an auntie who still lives there and some cousins. They come over here or we go to visit them. I also keep in touch with a few people there through social media and it’s good to see how football on the island is doing. They asked me to be involved in the ConIFA World Cup last year but I couldn’t go. You never know, though, I could end up there. It’s something I would like to do. If you are born on the Isle of Man, you can play for any of the four home nations. But you can also play for the Isle of Man as well.

“The island has been great for me, the support I get has been massive. There was a family wedding there I was supposed to go to recently, but I couldn’t make it because of my football commitments and they were all gutted. There is a Celtic supporters’ club there as well. I’ll need to go back soon.”

Tierney’s immediate priority is to build on the impressive first-team outings he has enjoyed for Celtic so far, the most recent earning him the man of the match award in last Sunday’s 5-0 league win over Dundee United. But he is coy about his short-term prospects of dislodging Emilio Izaguirre from the left-back slot on a regular basis.

“It’s still early and I’ve only made six first-team appearances so far,” he said. “For me, it’s just about needing to take my chance whenever I get it. I hope I can get more chances this season. I was buzzing after Sunday and hopefully I did enough to stay in the first-team squad. The manager has shown a lot of faith in me and I’m grateful to him for that.”

Deila has confirmed he will rotate his squad over the next eight days which sees tonight’s League Cup quarter-final against Hearts at Tynecastle followed by Saturday’s league game at home to nearest rivals Aberdeen and next Thursday’s crucial Europa League visit from Molde.

“We have to do that,” said Deila. “We have to see the whole picture and load players right, because some players can play every time and some players can’t do it. We need to protect them from injury and also protect their performances.”