Kieran Tierney reveals unusual England fitness race measures and what he did during Scotland's defeat to Czech Republic
It is fair to say that Kieran Tierney had not anticipated watching Scotland play their first major finals match for over two decades while perched on the end of his hotel bed in a pair of tights.
That is the sorry way it panned out. The tights were compression medical tights in case you were wondering. The Arsenal defender was still wearing them yesterday when he met reporters on a sweltering hot day at the squad’s well-appointed base in County Durham.
This is where he took two hours off rehabilitation work to watch Scotland’s 2-0 defeat to Czech Republic on Monday. The dismay was palpable when the news reached Hampden Park that Tierney was out of Steve Clarke’s squad entirely.
He did not even travel with the squad to Scotland. Instead, he shared the same television experience as the rest of the nation bar those 9,000 or so Scots present at Hampden.
Tierney is a modest fellow. However, he knows, as we all do, that, but for a niggling calf injury, it is guaranteed he would have been in line bellowing out "Flower of Scotland" with his teammates.
If not the first name on the team sheet, he is certainly the second after skipper and fellow left-back Andy Robertson. Scotland’s entire way of playing has been devised to accommodate Tierney at left centre-half. There are injury blows and there are injury blows - and there are now real concerns over his involvement tomorrow night against England. Tierney rates his own chances as “50/50”.
His absence on Monday was hard enough for fans to accept.
“I probably felt 10 times worse than everyone, honestly,” he said in a sit down with newspaper reporters. “But that’s what you need to deal with in football. You get ups and downs. This was a down.
"I stayed back and did rehab work as well. I was just so flat that day. I stayed back here trying to get fit for Friday and it was probably the longest day.
“It was a horrible day. Watching the anthem was amazing but what I was feeling inside was terrible. I wanted to be there so much. I wanted to help the boys out. I wanted them to do so well and not being able to help was hard to take.”
Tierney does, though, appreciate the need for some perspective to be applied after watching Christian Eriksen collapse during Denmark's clash with Finland last weekend. An ongoing pandemic also demands that Tierney's plight is put in context.
“I need to count myself lucky, there are a lot worse things going on and a lot worse things that can happen,” he said. “I’m just doing my best to be fit for Friday night.”
He is trying to give himself every chance to be ready – even going to the extent of keeping those medical tights on. “Me wearing a pair of tights shows you that!” said the 24-year-old, who grew up in the Muirhouse area of Motherwell. “When am I wearing tights?!”
He has far from ruled out featuring at Wembley, where he won the FA Cup with Arsenal against Chelsea last summer. “I’ve played there a couple of times, fortunately for Arsenal there have been some good results we’ve had there,” he said. “If I can keep that going I’ll be delighted."
Tierney knows a result against England, whether this is a draw or, ideally, a win, will put Scotland back on track in Group D. “It sounds easy, doesn’t it… ?” he smiled. “Obviously that’s the objective. You need to believe. You need to go down there with a game plan to do well and that’s what we have been working on in training. We have another day’s training to look forward to before the game.”
Tierney took part in some of yesterday’s training work but did not participate fully. The danger is exacerbating an injury that is believed to be linked to the knee damage he sustained against Liverpool in April. Arsenal will be looking on with particular interest. He is as central to their hopes as he is to Scotland.
“The pain itself probably wouldn’t stop you playing,” explained Tierney. “It’s just if you played on it it could get a lot, lot worse and you could be out for a lengthy time. You can’t risk it, not with calves.”
It is not advisable to face one of the most feared strikers in the game when less than 100 per cent fit. “He’s world-class,” said Tierney after being asked about his North London rival Harry Kane. “I think anyone can see that and anyone who watches football knows that. He’s so clinical, he can do anything. He can go behind, go short.”
His Arsenal teammate and England squad member Bukayo Saka was in touch to wish him happy birthday earlier this month but other than that Tierney has been concentrating on his own camp rather than England’s.
He reports no lack of belief within the walls of the Rockliffe Hall hotel. Those such as David Marshall are nursing their own wounds – mental ones in the goalkeeper’s case after being beaten by Patrik Schick’s 50-yard wonder goal.
“Marshy’s a very experienced guy,” said Tierney. “I’m always there for him 100%. Everyone has had a bad result. Sometimes it gets blown out of proportion but we all know how to bounce back and we are going to try our hardest.
“That is one thing about this team, we give everything and you can’t fault our attitude, commitment or effort or our passion,” Tierney stressed. “That is one thing you can’t fault.”
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