Boot cleaning duty keeps Kieran Tierney grounded

He may have started four of Celtic’s past six games but Kieran Tierney doesn’t “yet” feel like a first-team player. Maybe that is down to the 18-year-old having yet to break into the first-team dressing room at the club’s Lennoxtown training complex.

Celtic's Kieran Tierney poses with the Scottish Cup at the fourth round draw. Picture: Steve Welsh
Celtic's Kieran Tierney poses with the Scottish Cup at the fourth round draw. Picture: Steve Welsh

Tierney still changes with the youth squad on a daily basis and continues to clean his – now regular – team-mates’ boots. Filling them, to leave Honduran international Emilio Izaguirre kicking his heels on the bench, continues to leave him feeling he is living out a fantasy.

The Isle of Man-born defender represented his club at yesterday’s Scottish Cup draw that handed the Scottish champions a fourth-round trip to Stranraer in early January. The fact he can now speak about any Celtic game from the point of likely representing his cherished football team is in no danger of becoming matter-of-fact.

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“It’s still hard to take in for me. I just see myself as still being a Celtic fan,” he said. “It’s brilliant for me and I just need to appreciate every moment I have with the first team and make the most of it. I’m used to the surrounds of Parkhead because when you’re a supporter you’re there every other week, but going out there as a player is amazing, with all the fans singing is great. I’ve worked so hard to play for Celtic and have supported them all my life, so it’s a dream to play for them.”

The boyish enthusiasm of Tierney extends to his being unashamedly chuffed that his fellow fans now have a chant in his honour. “Stuff like that is brilliant,” he said.

The teenager feels the same about the dual existence he has at Lennoxtown. “I need to keep working hard and hope one day I can be in the first-team dressing room,” he said. “I’m training with the first team every day and I trained with them last season. I’m there all the time and talking to them all and getting involved in everything they do, so that’s good. The youngest have to clean the boots, so if I’m the youngest I have to clean the boots and get the balls. That’s all good for me.”

Praise for Tierney from Ronny Deila and assistant John Collins has been lavish. The Celtic 
manager gushed about his attitude, while Collins said the youngster played like a £5 million full-back in the defeat by Ajax last week.

“It’s obviously a compliment you take well,” he said of Collins’ commendation. “It doesn’t get said a lot about young people. I was surprised when I first saw it, and it was actually my dad that showed me. But I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, I need to keep my feet on the ground. I’m still young and it’s still early. But it was definitely pleasing to hear what the manager said.

“He watches training every day, he knows what he’s talking about. That’s one of my main things, my work-rate, my work ethic, and it’s good he’s recognised that.”

As a Celtic supporter, Tierney recognises the craving of the club faithful for a domestic clean sweep. “We just need to prepare right, we can’t take anything for granted,” he said of the Stranraer tie. “The treble is the aim for everyone at Celtic. We need to work hard, there will be a lot of games for us to do that and we need to be ready for them.”