Celtic's Kieran Tierney insists he will stay level-headed

It was understandable there should be all sorts of natter at Celtic Park the other night about Kieran Tierney's potential future as Celtic captain. It could be no other way following his spectacular, goalscoring introduction to the role in a 5-0 Betfred Cup thumping of Kilmarnock.

Celtic's Kieran Tierney celebrates his stunning goal against Kilmarnock. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS
Celtic's Kieran Tierney celebrates his stunning goal against Kilmarnock. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

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Amid all of this talk, though, one possible stumbling block proved the elephant in the room. The 20-year-old Tierney, now being championed as the best young Scottish player in three decades, possesses all the attributes to lead his boyhood club – as he did at a more tender age than any other in modern times on Tuesday night.

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The problem is that he possesses just so many winning attributes – pace, power, application, adaptability and aggression. The left-back can play all across the back four and on Tuesday evening patrolled central defence with aplomb. Indeed, his manager, Brendan Rodgers, described him as an “animal” in training every day in explaining why he was “made” for the role of captain at a club that means “everything” to him.

Tierney’s burgeoning talents mean it is hard to see English clubs delaying much longer before making Celtic, and the boy himself, an outrageous offer.

That fact would ordinarily make Tierney departing the Scottish scene before 31-year-old Scott Brown, pictured above, is required to surrender the armband at Celtic Park a certainty.

But Tierney isn’t your average player in all manner of respects. The depth of his feeling for Celtic recalls two past captains of recent decades – Paul McStay and Tom Boyd. Both men didn’t just care, it might be said they cared too much in sticking by the club when it was in desperate straits. Boyd was rewarded with late career success that painfully eluded McStay in the final stretches of his 16-year first-team tenure eventually cut short by injury.

The days of a one-club absolute top drawer talent within Scottish football are over, but Tierney gives every impression that he is driven to one day be the Celtic captain on a permanent basis. A role that came the way of Kenny Dalglish, who left Celtic for Liverpool 40 years ago today, before he headed to England at the age of 27 and only after giving Celtic six full seasons of senior service.

It may not be conceivable for Celtic to hold on to Tierney that long, but the youngster will not be driven by financial reward in the short-term. Celtic to his core, his personal and professional fulfilment will be served by his current berth as much as anywhere he is likely to be wanted. There is a pull of home then that makes him think Celtic first and only, right now. A £25 million bid could cause the club to want to change his mindset, but they would not push out the door a teetotal player whose presence reflects so positively on their entire club structure.

Tierney beamed when it was put to him the other night that Rodgers had effectively portrayed him as a Celtic captain in waiting.

“That means everything,” he said. “The manager has been great with me from the first day he’s come in. To hear him say that is just brilliant for me. I just need to keep level-headed and take everything as it comes. I’ll work hard every single day in training, as always.

“It was a real honour for me to captain the team. Broony was obviously suspended for the game but I felt the whole team did well. From the first whistle until the last, everyone was great. I think if you asked every Celtic fan in the world ‘would you like to captain the team?’ then I think they’d all say they would.

“That’s the obvious answer. But Broony is here for a good few years yet.

“I didn’t ever captain youth teams or anything like that so it’s new to me. The first time I really did it was the pre-season game down in Sunderland [a week past Saturday].

“That meant a lot, it definitely was a huge honour just walking the team out. I then did my speech in the huddle which was unbelievable.

“Like I say, it’s every fan’s dream. I’ve now done it in a competitive game too and hopefully it’s not the last time. This is a historic club that’s had some great, great captains.

“Obviously right now is one of the greatest in Scott Brown. I look up to him in every single way and he helps me on and off the pitch every day. He’s a total leader.”

Tierney would never have been considered a leading ball-striker at the club – for all that Rodgers said he nets from range in training – but that might change after Tuesday. The 35-yard effort he melted into the top corner was a stunning hit. A hit that stunned Tierney as much as anyone.

“When you’re in the centre of the park it’s easier to get shots away with your left foot,” said Tierney. “I had a bit of space and just thought to myself ‘why not?’ It’s definitely the best goal I’ve ever scored.

“I just felt like I’d hit it sweet – in fact I didn’t even feel it connecting with my foot at all. Although, I hadn’t ever done it before so I didn’t know how it felt to strike a ball like that before. But I was buzzing to get it.”

The buzz about Tierney is amplifying by the week.