Celtic’s Kieran Tierney: UFC ace Conor McGregor helped me rehab

Kieran Tierney’s rise to prominence means he must also cope with an unwanted side-effect of fame: scurrilous rumours.

Kieran Tierney goes head to head with John OSullivan of Dundee during Sundays Ladbrokes Premiership game at Dens Park. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS

According to some posts on social media, the full-back’s entire career was supposedly in doubt. He was reputed to be having hip surgery similar to the procedure Andy Murray recently underwent in an attempt to prolong his tennis career.

In actual fact Tierney had simply been forced to rest a pelvic injury meaning he missed ten weeks of action for Celtic and Scotland. Then it was also claimed he gave Brendan Rodgers short shrift after his sudden departure to Leicester City. He has not spoken to Rodgers, he confirms. But there was no fall-out.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Sign up to our Football newsletter

“I’ve not seen him since,” he said. “Listen, he gave us so much success and I think it’s just hard the way it’s all happened for us. For the players, we’re all supporters of the club as well. We’re fighting for the badge and that’s what the fans want you to do.I had a few text messages just after he left but that’s it.”

Asked if he was surprised, he replied: “Yeah because it all happened overnight. We woke up in the morning and it was all over the papers and the news with everybody talking about it. We went up to Lennoxtown and the next thing we know we’ve got a new manager. I had a few text messages just after he left but that’s it.”

As for the supposed new hip, he can prove he bears no recent surgery scars.

“I never came out and said I had a hip injury,” he said. “But apparently I was going for a hip operation and it was the same one Andy Murray had. It’s funny how things grow arms and legs.”

He has no time for anyone who doubts his commitment to Scotland. He is here in Astana with Scotland just weeks after returning to the Celtic first-team and is indispensable following Andy Robertson’s withdrawal from tomorrow night’s Euro 2020 opener against Kazakhstan.

Tierney was among a raft of call-offs prior to the double header against Albania and Israel at the end of last year but stressed he tried everything he could to be available.

“I pulled out the day before the game not seven days before,” said Tierney. “If anybody said that they’re just completely wrong to be honest with you. I’m not here to say, ‘I’m here to prove myself’. I would have been there if I could have been. I hate being injured for club or country. It’s not a nice feeling and no footballer wants it.”

But Tierney is well aware there is an upside to fame: becoming mates with Conor McGregor, the former Ultimate Fighting Championship champion and possibly one of the most famous sportspeople in the world.

Proving social media is not all bad, they originally got in touch on Istagram.

“He came over to Glasgow for a question and answer thing he was doing and I got talking to his mates who said he’d love one of my Celtic jerseys,” recalled Tierney.

“I sent him a few over for him and his mates the next thing I know he sent me a message saying thanks and posted a photo on Instagram. Honestly, I couldn’t sleep that night. He posted the picture at around 10.50pm and I was sitting there thinking ‘no way’ and that was me up the full night. I was buzzing going into training.

“I’m a massive fan of his,” added Tierney. “His documentary is great when you listen to the way he talks about positivity. It’s all about mindset and how you react to people doubting you, and how to come back from defeats. I think any athlete can relate to him.”

Tierney credits McGregor with helping his recent recovery. The left-back was using a Wattbike to aid his return to fitness and was spending up to eight hours a day at Lennoxtown working on his cardio. McGregor has his own Wattbike programme and would offer Tierney advice.

“I was still doing Celtic’s programme but the little tips from him helped, too,” he revealed. “He’s my biggest hero outside of football so it was amazing. I met him in Belfast two years ago. It was UFC Belfast and he was there supporting his friend who was fighting. I was there because I was injured at the time. I was ringside and got chatting to him for ten or 15 minutes. I got a signed glove from him and a tee-shirt.”

Tierney has also got to know singer Jake Bugg. “I don’t think they’ll be telling people they’ve been in touch with me – I’m just a wee guy from Wishaw! But it’s crazy for me. I was looking up to those people, watching documentaries and interviews on Youtube. Then to actually talk to them in person is next level for me. It’s stuff you aspire to but never think it’ll happen. I never said to myself ‘I’m going to talk to Conor McGregor or meet him,’ and he’ll be wearing my shirt training one day. You just can’t write that stuff. It’s crazy.”