Since breaking into the Celtic first team shortly before his 18th birthday four years ago, Kieran Tierney has scarcely looked back.
Suddenly, however, the relentless success he has enjoyed with the Scottish champions looks to have taken its toll.
The obvious conclusion to reach as Tierney prepares to undergo surgery for a double hernia next week is that his 170 games for Celtic – not to mention 12 for Scotland – is the cause of the wear and tear which has caused him so much discomfort in recent weeks.
The talented left-back, though, isn’t so sure. Tierney, who has only completed one full 90 minutes for Celtic in the last six weeks, believes the standard of some of the pitches he has played on over the last four seasons could be the root of his problem.
“Maybe it’s the different surfaces,” said Tierney who encounters the much criticised artificial pitches with both Celtic and Scotland.
“Most people will say I’ve played too many games. But there are lots of people who haven’t played 170 games who have also ended up with double hernias.
“So you can’t just blame it on a lot of games. Maybe it’s a factor. But all of the games I’ve played up until this, I’ve felt great. I’ve not been struggling with injury. But obviously since this, it’s been a bit sore.”
Tierney lasted just 56 minutes of his last appearance for Celtic when they clinched an eighth consecutive league title with victory over Aberdeen at Pittodrie on 4 May.
He insists his personal desire to add to the nine major winners’ medals he has already collected with Celtic will never cloud his judgment on whether he is able to perform at his best for the club.
“All day long, I’ll be honest with everyone about my fitness,” added Tierney. “It’s why I didn’t play in the Rangers game a couple of weeks ago. It was the same scenario.
“A couple of weeks rest doesn’t help the double hernia, but it helps you. Training for a good week going into the game gives me the best possible chance of being as ready for the cup final as I can be.
“There’s pretty much pain all the time with this. It’s sore when I wake up, sore when I’m moving about. People say it gets a bit better once you’ve warmed up but I’ve yet to feel that way.
“Sleeping’s been fine. I’ve heard stories that at night it can be difficult. Twisting and turning can be a bit sore. But I’ve never had problems like that. I’m OK sleeping, although it’s pain again when you get up.
“I was told a few weeks ago, after the cup semi-final against Aberdeen, that I would need surgery.
“I put forward whether it would be best to get the operation immediately. But they weren’t sure if it was possible to get the surgery so soon. So I was booked in for after the season. Since then I’ve just tried my best to train and play when I can.
“It is what it is, I now know what it is and I know how to deal with it and cope with it. I’ve trained the last few days, they’ve been full sessions and they’ve been hard sessions. That gives me confidence going into the game that I’ve done the two hardest sessions of the week.
“I push myself for every single game, I want to play every game. This is another massive game. But the team comes first — if I’m not available, I’m not available.
“I’ll still be 100 per cent behind the team. I’d be gutted to miss out but all that matters to me is that Celtic win, whether I’m playing or not.
“I’m really grateful to be where I am and I don’t take anything for granted at this club. You always want to achieve the most you can in football and winning trophies here is what I’ve always wanted to do. While I’m doing that, then I’m happy.
“That feeling hasn’t gone away. It isn’t any less because I’ve done it before. Every trophy feels better than the last one. If you work hard all season for a trophy and get one then it feels so sweet and I want to do that again next season.
“It would be great if we did another treble on Saturday but it’s a case of ‘if’ we win it. We need to concentrate on that. If it all goes well then we can talk about that after it.
“It’s crazy to be going for a treble treble. No team has been in a position where they’ve done a double treble and now we’ve won two trophies this season with the chance to win one more. It is crazy and something we’ll probably never have the chance to do again.”