There will be many high points Kieran Tierney will gleefully rewind when the Celtic full-back watches his copy of the club’s soon-to-be-released DVD Access All Areas: The Making of a Double Treble which he promoted at their training ground yesterday.
Not too many of them will come from the first couple of months of the season, though.
While the 21-year-old commends the exceptional start that Hearts have made to the Premiership season, he believes the hard work all lies ahead of Craig Levien’s men if they are to threaten Celtic’s quest for an eighth straight title.
In winning six and drawing one of their first seven league games, the Gorgie club have not only established a six-point lead in the top flight. The only unbeaten team in Scotland across this term have enjoyed an opening seven weeks of the league campaign that matches Celtic’s record in their invincibles season which led to Brendan Rodgers’ opening year in charge concluding with the first treble achieved without defeat in the history of our game.
Then Celtic set the pace from the off; currently they are off the pace set by a Hearts side who will visit Rangers on Sunday, before facing Aberdeen, Hibernian and Celtic twice in the next five weeks – the Edinburgh team squaring up to Rodgers’ men in a Betfred Cup semi-final that could yet be played at Murrayfield on 28 October.
“It is a really long season and to keep up how well Hearts have started is really hard for them. It’s really hard for anybody because they are unbeaten,” Tierney said. “It is a long season, long way to go and it will be really interesting to see how it all unfolds.
“Usually the pressure is on us to lead from the front but they’re sitting on top of the Premiership and they haven’t lost to anyone yet so the pressure will eventually build on them.
“At Celtic, we’re used to dealing with that pressure all the time. Hearts have had a great start and proved that they’re really hard to beat – we already know that because, when we lost to them at Tynecastle, it was a really tough game.
“It’s good for the division that so many teams are challenging at this early stage but, for us, we want to climb up the table. People talk about a title challenge and, especially when there’s so much chatter about us, we just want to work hard and go out there and do what we’ve always done.
“We’re not looking to prove anybody wrong; it’s more about proving ourselves right and get back to where we were in the two previous seasons – or as close as we possibly can.”
The focus switches to continental matters for Celtic again this week with their assignment in Salzburg in the Europa League group stages ranging them against another team unbeaten on all the fronts they are competing. The Austrian champions have won all eight of their Bundesliga fixtures, registered victories in two cup ties and have played five games in Europe without loss – most significantly going to the home of fellow Red Bullers Leipzig and securing a 3-2 success in their opening Europa League group tie.
It is little wonder that Rodgers, pictured, spoke last week of “quelling” his “attack-minded” instincts to “protect” his players in such an exacting encounter as they face tomorrow.
If there is one area of comfort as his team have struggled to hit the heights this season it is that the Celtic players haven’t been too shabby at protecting themselves with seven clean sheets from their past eight games.
“That’s a good start although I’ve been told they are averaging about three a game,” added Tierney. “So it’s going to be really hard for us. But it’s a challenge that we welcome.
“It’s the whole 11 who have kept the clean sheets. The strikers get all the glory for the goals but it’s the team who keeps clean sheets. It’s not just the back four who should get the credit – it’s the midfielders and the strikers too – plus the keeper.
“If the gaffer thinks that [a degree of caution] is what’s required then it’s required. In Europe you know you are going to get a hard game no matter where it is. Even in the qualifiers, in the rounds you are expected to win, you know you are still going to get a really tough game.
“There are no bad European sides especially in the group stage with the teams we have. Salzburg are a great side and we know it will be really hard for us.”