Celtic’s Kieran Tierney: If I can’t be 100% fit, what’s the point?

It is all about managing for Kieran Tierney right now. Managing the fervour and fanaticism of Celtic-minded friends and family obsessing about the defender landing a treble treble with his beloved club. Managing a pelvic problem that has limited the 21-year-old’s game time this year. And managing the constant swirl of transfer speculation over the potential for the left-back being spirited away from a club he adores.
Celtic's Kieran Tierney looks ahead to the Scottish Cup semi-final. Pic: SNS/Paul DevlinCeltic's Kieran Tierney looks ahead to the Scottish Cup semi-final. Pic: SNS/Paul Devlin
Celtic's Kieran Tierney looks ahead to the Scottish Cup semi-final. Pic: SNS/Paul Devlin

Tierney, whose potential remains unbridled, copes pretty well. But when it comes to patching up his body to go out and play, as he will as Celtic’s bid to do a nine-in-a-row of trophy wins goes on the line in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Aberdeen, something will have to eventually give.

The Lanarkshire youngster will push himself to be part of an astonishing slice of Scottish football history across the next six weeks. Beyond that though, rest and recuperation will be required. And that puts his participation in Scotland’s Euro 2020 double-header that will see them host Cyprus on 8 June before playing in Belgium three days later in serious jeopardy.

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“For my career, 100 per cent it would benefit me to rest, of course it would,” he said. “But it’s up to Scotland and Celtic to talk about that. I’m not here saying I want to pull out but I do want what’s best for the country and if I go there and I’m not completely fit, that won’t be the case. If I go and I’m ready, then it is what it is.

“But our physio Tum Williamson does both, and he’ll know what’s best for everyone. You need to look after yourself sometimes as well, and if I can’t go there 100 per cent fit, what’s the point? As it stands just now I’m fine.”

Tierney says he won’t be that full 100 per cent until he has that full rest. In the lead-up to this afternoon’s pivotal encounter, he has mixed rest with the rhythm of a fitness programme.

“We had two days off after the game [against Livingston last Saturday] and I’ve trained the rest of the week. I just need to gauge my way through things at the moment.

“It’s the same when most of the guys come through an injury, you need to rest, you maybe need more recovery time and less training than the rest of the boys. That’s just the way it is and then hopefully I’ll get a proper break in the summer.

“It’s not in my nature to deal with this kind of stuff. It’s hard but I know I’m doing all I can, being as professional as I can be, working the gym and training ground hard.

“But these things happen. I’ve spoken to other guys in the team who’ve had this injury and they’re reassuring me that it goes away and you make a full recovery eventually.”

Tierney’s problem has been mis-reported and mythologised, he feels. “I’ve heard so often that it’s my hip, that I’ve got Andy Murray’s hip, that I’m going for an op – it’s all news to me,” he said. “It’s my pubis bone, and it’s just through overuse. The intensity of our games and training, the number of games, and it’s been non-stop for me since I was 17 – it’s just caught up. But it’s nothing too serious. I’m playing, I’m training and I’m getting through it fine. After the game it’ll feel a bit stiff but that’s expected, but lots of people who’ve had it have told me I’ll be fresh when I’ve had a break.”

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Whatever is pressing on his limbs, there is the pressure of delivering a third straight domestic honours clean sweep pressing on his mind. It could be no other way when Tierney is so enveloped in all things Celtic, to the extent he sits among the punters whenever he isn’t on the pitch. It could be considered that places a heavier weight on him than other team-mates.

“It’s hard to say [if that’s the case] because I don’t know how the rest of them feel about the pressure. But because I know how important it is for the fans, it’s a lot – but no more so that the double treble was. That hadn’t been done before either.

“It’s a lot of pressure but it’s nothing new to anyone in our squad. The people in our changing room are amazing at dealing with it.”

Of course, they can get away from it. “That’s a big factor, to be fair,” Tierney said. “When I’m home it’s still all Celtic. Everything’s Celtic. My dad, my family, my friends – that’s just what it is and that’s how it’s always been. Nothing’s changed for me. If this was happening when I was younger, I’d have been exactly the same as a wee guy, I’d have been talking about it all the time.” It was put to Tierney, though, if he ever felt ‘gie’s peace’. “Only when they say it’s my hip,” he joked.

The full-back is content with life, pubis bone apart, with his equilibrium unaffected by the departure of Brendan Rodgers, and the arrival of Neil Lennon as interim manager in late February. In the man in charge he has a kindred spirit when it comes to passion for the Celtic cause.

“The manager has changed for a while now and we’ve got used to it, it was a smooth transition for everybody. It’s not bothering us, we’re ready to go and buzzing working under this new manager. It’s new for me but people like Broony [Scott Brown] and James [Forrest] have worked for him before and that helped us as well. He’s been involved in many big occasions, much more than I’ve been in my life, so he knows it better than anyone what it means to the fans as well.

“I’ve been playing and training with a smile on my face, as always at Celtic. It’s good that it’s continued. When a new manager comes in you never know if you are going to be in his plans. I’ve been lucky enough that he’s showed faith in me and kept playing me as well.”

It was arguably at Hampden that the Rodgers’ gold dust was sprinkled most evidently. A club that under Ronny Deila and Lennon first time around became as likely to lose as win any cup ties at the arena – pretty much irrespective of the opposition – was transformed into a team that won 10 on the spin without ever really looking beatable.

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“We didn’t change our gameplan going to Hampden, what we did at Celtic Park, what we did away from home was working so we took that into Hampden and it has worked for us there for the last few seasons. We just hope what we are doing on the training pitch these days goes into Hampden as well. There’s no different routines or anything, it was just keep everything the same, maybe that’s the thing. Before Brendan Rodgers, we had Deila and didn’t win at Hampden and we didn’t change routine. But we were maybe unlucky or not good enough on the day. It’s a one-off game and anything can happen.”