Celtic's Kieran Tierney intent on going right to the end
The left – and sometimes right – back was at his lung-busting best on Sunday as Celtic tied up the Scottish title with a 5-0 win over Hearts at Tynecastle.
Having missed a large chunk of the season already, Tierney is desperate to avoid being rested by Brendan Rodgers in what could prove a hugely satisfying end to the campaign for the 19-year-old, who has already battled back from an ankle ligament injury sustained in November.
But he has returned as good as ever and offered another showcase of his qualities by switching to right-back from left-back for Scotland’s recent win over Slovenia. Restored to his natural position against Hearts on Sunday, his run up the left helped create Celtic’s first goal for Scott Sinclair.
Indeed, he didn’t stop running all afternoon and wants to keep going until the final whistle of the World Cup clash with England on 10 June, after what he hopes has proved a treble-winning season.
Tierney will line up tonight against Partick Thistle feeling as fresh as most players do near the start of a season. However, he does admit the concern of yet another operation so soon into his career weighed on his mind.
“I missed a few big games and I’ll play any game that I am available for,” he said. “When I am fit, I want to play.
“The first few weeks out, you get a bit of rest with not playing games. Mentally, though, there is no rest at all because you need to set your mind for getting back from two operations. That was my third operation and I’m only 19, so it was not easy mentally, but from games I did have a rest.
“You know it is going to be difficult, but I worked my hardest every single day in training. I try to give my best into anything I do. Knowing I’d come back from a leg break before gave me confidence that if I worked hard again, I’d be alright.”
Tierney is hugely appreciative of what the game has given him already in his short career. He has maintained the same friendships from school and there is no question he has kept his feet on the ground.
“If football hadn’t worked for me, I think I would have been a brickie,” he said. “I did construction and things at school. I wasn’t mad smart, just normal. I think I would have gone to college and then an apprenticeship somewhere.”
But he knows there is room to keep on improving as a footballer, making specific reference to his right foot. It has become a particularly urgent matter now that Gordon Strachan seems inclined to continue using him at right-back for Scotland – a switch that Celtic legend Danny McGrain made for Scotland as well.
“I work on all my weaknesses and the stuff that I can improve upon,” said Tierney. “My right foot, my heading. I work with [first-team coach] John Kennedy every day on these things. When I’m in front of goal, if I could score more it would be great.”
“I haven’t spoken with Danny about playing right-back,” he added. “But he said in an interview that he watched the Scotland game and he was happy for me, which, coming from a legend like him, is a confidence boost and great for me.”