Kieran Tierney: Winning title against Rangers would be a dream

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Kieran Tierney was still a month short of his second
birthday when Rangers clinched the league title on a tumultuous May evening in the east end of Glasgow back in 1999.

But while the Celtic left-back has no personal recollection of the dramatic events which saw his club endure one of their most traumatic Old Firm defeats, he is acutely aware of just how sweet it would be for his club’s support if those circumstances are turned on their head this Sunday.

Kieran Tierney is gunning for his third Young Player of the Year award after being nominated for the 2017/18 gong. Picture: SNS

Kieran Tierney is gunning for his third Young Player of the Year award after being nominated for the 2017/18 gong. Picture: SNS

“I can’t remember it, but my dad and older friends remember it and have talked about it,” says Tierney of Rangers’ 3-0 win at Celtic Park which secured the championship 19 years ago.

“It’s a massive, massive game on Sunday. Everyone at 
Celtic knows that and we look forward to it.”

For the reigning six-in-a-row champions, it is their opportunity to win the league with a victory over their greatest rivals at Parkhead for the first time since the remarkable 4-2 triumph over Rangers achieved with just ten men on the pitch in 1979.

“Of course there is a bit of history there,” added Tierney. “But if we get the one win we need from our last four league games, then it’s seven-in-a-row for Celtic. It doesn’t matter so much how we do it, just that we do. But we want to do it as soon as possible and do it in the Celtic way.

“Of course [it’s a dream scenario to win it by beating Rangers]. But the biggest dream scenario is to win the league. I don’t care how we do it as long as we win it.

“In seasons down the line, it’s not who you win the league against that goes in the history books, it’s the fact you won it.”

Tierney, speaking after being named as one of the four short-listed nominees for the PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year award which will be handed out in Glasgow on Sunday evening, believes criticism of Celtic’s overall performance levels this season has been unreasonable.

Brendan Rodgers’ side remain on course for the historic feat of winning back-to-back domestic trebles but have inevitably struggled to match the standards they reached in their ‘Invincible’ campaign last year.

“Last season was a season in a lifetime,” said Tierney. “Has anyone ever achieved the kind of consistency we did last season? You are never going to do that again.

“Of course we would like to have played better in a lot of games this season. We know we can do better, but comparing it to last year is unfair.

“Last year was a fairytale – it was so good. What we did as a team was brilliant. To achieve that again would have been unbelievable. It’s been very hard and we’ve been beaten a couple of times now – but we just have to play as well as we can.

“It’s incredible that we are going for another treble. We have put ourselves in a great position to do that even though there are still a few games left. They are hard, hard games – no doubt about it. We take it game by game, we have a big game on Sunday to look forward to first of all.”

Celtic are odds-on favourites to get the job done against a Rangers side they crushed 4-0 in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden two weeks’ ago. But Tierney does not anticipate such a one-sided contest this weekend as Celtic bid to extend their unbeaten run in Old Firm combat under Rodgers to 11 matches.

“Of course we expect a reaction from Rangers,” he said. “They know themselves they have to. We played well at Hampden. We pressed well, we kept the ball well and we were clinical. When we had chances we took them all, but these games are all different and they’re always tough – especially at Celtic Park. Rangers have had two draws there on their last two visits and we know all about that.”

Hibs appeared to outline the template for overcoming Celtic with their high-intensity pressing as they beat the champions 2-1 at Easter Road last Saturday, delaying the title-clinching celebrations for Tierney and his team-mates for at least a week.

“I’m not sure what Rangers will do on Sunday,” he added. “Teams maybe think that’s the way to play against us now.

“Even at Hampden, though, Rangers pressed us well at the start, but we kept the ball so well that maybe stopped them pressing quite as much.

“We just want to get over the line. It’s about winning 
every game at Celtic, you 
want to do that. We didn’t give the fans much to cheer about last weekend and we want to make amends for that this weekend.”