Chris Cadden might have made the first-team breakthrough slightly earlier but the Motherwell winger knows he must bow to old school friend Kieran Tierney’s achievements.
The pair attended Our Lady’s High School in Motherwell together but will be in direct competition in Sunday’s Betfred Cup final. Neither has moved far geographically in their careers to date – Tierney has been attached to Celtic since he was seven years old. Cadden, meanwhile, is a product of the Motherwell academy and barring a spell on loan at Albion Rovers, has always played for the Fir Park club, for whom he has scored 11 times in 81 appearances.
While Cadden, 21, has become an established member of an impressive Motherwell side it’s Tierney who has blazed a trail with Celtic and Scotland, skippering both teams at the age of just 20. He also reached the 100 games mark for Celtic last weekend against Ross County.
“I was a year ahead of him at school and through football you get to know each other,” explained Cadden. “He lives around the corner from me.
“I dropped him a text the other day but I won’t be speaking to him before the final that’s for sure. I played against him when we played in the youth teams, but he didn’t get to play for the school team [because Celtic would not let him].”
Cadden has the chance to make a name for himself against Tierney at Hampden Park this weekend, where they will likely be in direct competition to one another. Cadden will be on the right, seeking to create chances for his side he hopes, while Tierney will be on the left, trying to do likewise with his trademark runs from defence.
Cadden is not from the Davie Cooper school of wide players. Despite knowing Tierney so well, he won’t go out to wind his opposite man up. “I just keep myself to myself,” he says. “I just do what I do.” He is clearly from a good family, one steeped in football. Twin brother Nicky plays for Livingston while his father Steve played for Albion Rovers in the late 1980s. He credits his parents with instilling in him the discipline required to become a footballer.
“I was always a decent player,” he said. “But I will tell you now, there were a lot of better players than me when I was 15. I worked hard to be fair, I made sure I worked hard in the gym.
“Maybe if you are not as technical as someone else, I made sure I could run faster than them, I could run more than them, I could try and jump higher than them, and make sure I could do ‘the free things’, as the gaffer [Steven Robinson] likes to call it.”
Just getting as far as a cup final is hard for Motherwell fan Cadden to take in. “When I was wee I used to dream about just playing in one senior game for the club, so to be in a cup final is beyond my wildest dreams,” he said.
But he won’t be content with simply sampling such an occasion in Motherwell colours. He wants to win and become a part of club history.
“I think the family are running a bus to the game and they can’t wait for it,” he said. “My dad has been talking about it all week and he is looking forward to it. My brother Nicky will be there too because he doesn’t have a game on Sunday.”
All three were at Hampden in 2011 when Motherwell fell 3-0 to Celtic in the Scottish Cup final. Cadden stressed how deeply they all felt the disappointment that day. At least he now has the chance to make an impact on the pitch rather than look on helplessly from the stands.
He has seen videos chronicling Motherwell’s 1991 Scottish Cup victory over Dundee United – five years before he was born.
“You still get people talking to you about that – they are legends aren’t they?” he said. “It’s a wee bit more incentive to get out there and try and get a result. It’s a small club and these things don’t happen a lot for Motherwell.
“We are looking at them [Celtic] and thinking: someone has to beat them,” added Cadden. “They are not going to go through their history without getting beaten. Why not us? We can go through full of confidence. We can go out there and do it.”