Kieran Tierney not fazed by Celtic's Champions League defeat

Brendan Rodgers undoubtedly had his own reasons for claiming, in his post-match interview, that the 1-0 defeat inflicted by the policemen, civil servants, labourers and shipping agents who play for Lincoln Red Imps in the first leg of their second Champions League qualifying round on Tuesday was not an embarrassment for everyone connected with the club.

Kieran Tierney is confident Celtic will progress. Photograph: SNS.
Kieran Tierney is confident Celtic will progress. Photograph: SNS.

He may have been attempting to deflect criticism from his under-achieving players (good luck with that) or demonstrating to them that he will not hang them out to dry in public.

Either way, anyone who witnessed that performance, either on television or in the flesh, knows that their display was unacceptable. Indeed, even those who were unable to watch events as they unfolded know that much.

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It has been described as the worst result in Celtic’s history. That is nonsense, of course; without delving into the mists of time, the 5-0 defeat by Artmedia Bratislava which effectively eliminated them from the Champions League in 2005 was more significant. As, for that matter, was the 2-1 final-day defeat at Motherwell earlier that year.

However, there is no argument that the loss in the Victoria Stadium was the most humiliating defeat in the club’s unbroken 128-year history.

Kieran Tierney, once again one of the few individuals to emerge with credit from that debacle, accepts it for what it was but is confident that the minnows will be swept aside at Parkhead on Wednesday.

“The plan is to win convincingly,” said the 19-year-old. “We need to go out there in the right mindset to ensure we beat them and go through.

“We should definitely score a few against them. Hopefully this feeling that I’m feeling right now is over next week. We need to beat them.

“That was the lowest I’ve felt. Was it worse than losing to Rangers? Neck and neck, I would say. You can’t lose either of those games, you hate to be beaten in either of them. But, in this case, it was who we lost to as well.

“The thing is, we had a good training camp for two weeks so we wanted to go there and put in a good performance but it didn’t happen for us.

“It was weird. It was one of those nights that can happen to anyone and it happened to us. But we can put it right. It’s only half-time and we had a bad first half out there.

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“Now we have to play at our best in the second half and make sure that we give 100 per cent.”

Tierney admits that only progressing to the final qualifying round this week will help him recover from the shock on the Rock.

“It is still hard to take in,” he confessed. “It wasn’t ideal, not what we wanted, but it has gone now and we’re just focusing on the next leg and going through.

“Could I believe what was happening? You had to believe it because it was happening! We had to find our way back in and it just wasn’t our night in any way whatsoever.

“There are no excuses for us. We had a few chances but the ball didn’t go in the net at all. The surface was definitely the worst I have ever played on but, again, we should still be winning.

“After all, both teams played on it. I was just so gutted after the game.”

The outcome dissipated some of the feelgood factor engendered by Rodgers’ appointment but Tierney has been impressed by the quality of coaching the Irishman has brought to the training ground.

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“He has been focusing on team unity, which is a good thing,” he said. “After a defeat like that one it’s easy to blame others or go in a mood, however, he’s looking for us to be positive, stay together as a team and that is a plus.

“The manager has been great. He speaks to us all the time. After training it will be someone else he takes back to have a word with.

“It’s all positive. He tells us what to work on and that’s great for everybody. The mood in there is brilliant.”

Even so, Tierney refused to contemplate the possibility of a final qualifying round tie against Kazakhstan champions Astana, who drew 0-0 with Zalgiris Vilnius in Lithuania last week.

Then again, in spite of sweeping all the Young Player of the Year awards last season and making his debut for Scotland in the 1-0 victory over Denmark in March, he also played down his prospects of representing his country in the forthcoming 2018 World Cup qualifying matches.

“I’m not expecting to be in the full squad for Scotland all the time,” he said. “But if I’m playing regularly and well for Celtic and if that happens, it will be a bonus. I probably have more to prove this season than the last one because I was new then. This time out people will be expecting me to be on top again but it will be difficult for me. All I can do is work hard.

“Am I ready for that? Definitely. It’s a challenge every footballer faces in their second season. Hopefully, I can go out there and prove myself again.”