These were not simply down to the Arsenal defender donning a Scotland jersey for the first time in six months as he played an integral role in the captivating 3-0 success over Ukraine. A return to the arena after the 25-year-old missed both the World Cup play-off exit to the same nation in June, and the Nations League horrorshow of the 3-0 thumping by the Republic of Ireland in Dublin. Instead, they would have been down to Tierney’s comeback having come at left-back - where he hasn’t been deployed for his country since a teenager at Celtic six years ago and only starting out on his international odyssey.
Under Steve Clarke, the player’s de facto role has been on the left of a back three, which the Scotland manager jettisoned in the injury absence of left-sided Andy Robertson as his team made hay with a back four that allowed midfield attacking options to be bolstered. In reflecting on his Scotland return, Tierney exhibited the wide-eyed enthusiasm that made him an endearing figure across his meteoric rise in the game.
“I know,” he said of it being pointed out to him that the Ukraine victory marked a first Scotland appearance at left back since he earned the second of his 33 caps in a 3-0 home win over Kazakhstan in November. “I’m happy. I look forward to the roles I play here, even if it’s a back five. I really do like that role and it works well. We’ve had some really good results and we qualified for the Euros playing that way. It’s something I enjoy. Playing left back is great as well. It’s a different left back to Arsenal, where I’m maybe higher up the pitch. But I really enjoyed it out there the other night.
“I was just so gutted in the summer I couldn’t be there. You know the boys want to win everything. It was disappointing after the Ukraine play-off but you were wanting to bounce back with a good result. I think you learn from that though, 100 percent, and become a better team. You don’t want that feeling, to feel down and for people to be on you. You use it as motivation to come back, to please the manager and play like you know you can – and give the fans something to cheer about. I love playing for Scotland and I’m so happy to be here. I love the boys, the manager and the coaching staff. I’m buzzing. I’ve had an in-out start to the season [with Arsenal]. I’ve been in some games and out others.
“I’m just working hard on what I can control. When I play I am going to give my all, no matter what position it is. I’m enjoying every minute of being back fit again.”
Tierney could only be agonised that Nathan Patterson has endured the flipside of his current situation. The knee injury the Everton right-back is understood to have sustained that forced him off on Wednesday night is feared to be a long-term injury. As someone who has lost more than 14 months to a variety of ailments across his career, Tierney has a simple message for his stricken international team-mate.
“I felt for him,” Tierney said. “I knew straight away because I’ve been there. It’s football, isn’t it? What can you do? He won a tackle and bust a gut to get back and picked up an injury. He’s done it for us. I don’t know the extent of it but I hope it’s not too bad and he’s back soon. It’s just a shame because he’s been flying this season. The main thing with injuries is you have to accept it. There’s nothing you can do. You can’t not tackle. You have to give 100 percent. Nathan did that and he got an injury. But I’m sure he’ll work hard and come back strong.
“I’ve had a few myself, as you know. The longest have been two or three months. I had the knee operation in the summer as well and once you are back you are still managing it as well. It’s not like you are 100 percent as soon as you are back. I missed pre-season as well so I’m still playing a bit of catch up, trying to get fit. I’m working hard every day and I’ve been looking forward to this run with Scotland to get some game time.”