Kieran Tierney targets six wins for Celtic over Rangers

Celtic manager Brendan '¨Rodgers regularly reminds his players about the need for continuous improvement. The Northern Irishman is as restless as an app and his charges appear to be equally enthusiastic about refining and enhancing their qualities, individually and collectively.

Kieran Tierney celebrates Celtic's 1-0 win over Rangers in the Betfred Cup semi-final at Hampden in October last year.
Kieran Tierney celebrates Celtic's 1-0 win over Rangers in the Betfred Cup semi-final at Hampden in October last year.

They have already set a new club record by being undefeated for 34 games since the start of the current campaign and now they are aiming to become the first Celtic team to beat city rivals Rangers six times in the same season.

A 5-1 thrashing at Parkhead in September was followed by a 1-0 Betfred Cup semi-final victory at Hampden the following month and then coming from behind to win 2-1 at Ibrox in December.

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The clubs meet again at Celtic Park on Sunday, there will be a final fixture after the split and they have also been drawn against each other in the semi-finals of the William Hill 
Scottish Cup on 23 April.

Celtic full-back Kieran Tierney knows more than most how much the Celtic faithful would savour a green-and-whitewash if they could prevail in the three remaining meetings which, tellingly, he refers to as Glasgow derbies rather than Old Firm games.

“We know what that would mean to the supporters and everything we do this season is for them,” said the 19-year-old. “They have backed us all the way and we just try to give back to them as much as we can. In every Glasgow derby, the fans are always brilliant and the atmosphere is always terrific. The build-up is different to every other game; no-one can hide that. But you just need to treat it the same as every other game. You don’t try any harder; you just do what you always do. I don’t know if nervous would be the word for how I feel beforehand; I’m probably excited more than anything.

“I think everybody has a little bit of pre-match nerves but that’s a good thing. You want those nerves in games like this. As a Celtic supporter myself, I’ve probably got the same nerves that the fans feel.”

Those Glasgow derbies have been a part of Tierney’s life for longer than he can recall. 
Literally.

“I can’t remember the first one I went to but I must have been about four or five-years-old; I was dead young,” he said.

“I had a season ticket at that age; my first year was the one before I went to primary school.

“What I do remember is going to my first game and getting money from my mum for a pie at half-time. From then to now it’s a massive difference, obviously, but everybody knows what [these games] are all about and we’re looking forward to it as always.”

Rodgers and the vast majority of the Celtic players refuse to offer hostages to fortune by speaking presumptuously about completing a first treble for 16 years or of becoming the first Scottish club to avoid a domestic defeat for an entire season. When veteran defender Kolo Toure, pictured, moved to Scotland last July, the Scottish season had yet to begin but the Ivorian, a key component of Arsene Wenger’s side which won the Premier League without 
suffering a loss in 2004, immediately stated that he believed Celtic could match that achievement under Rodgers.

The prospect of improving on it by capturing the two major cups as well would have seemed preposterous to Tierney not so long ago but, by being able to put his medals on the table, Toure has the credibility to convince others that the impossible is within their reach.

“If anybody mentions that word [Invincibles] then you think: ‘That would be well hard,’” he said.

“Kolo has obviously done it and he is a brilliant player to have around the place. I learn a lot from him every single day just by talking to him in the changing rooms. He is always talking to me after games, telling me what I can improve on and what I’ve done well.

“For him to say [something like that] the, with the experience he has, he knows what he is talking about. Kolo’s been there and done it all. He’s inspirational. We just concentrate on ourselves; we train hard every single day because the gaffer has got us doing a lot of tactical stuff. So we just prepare on the training ground and that sets us up for when the games come.”

Tierney also paid tribute to Lisbon Lion Tommy Gemmell, who died last week. The pair had more in common than the same position; Gemmell was also a Lanarkshire boy and the teenager is honoured to follow in the great man’s footsteps.

“He was a great full-back and is a legend at this club,” said Tierney. “Tommy was from around my area too – he grew up just across the bridge from where I’m from. Everybody there is sad about his death and it’s not just Celtic fans but Scottish football fans in general and that just shows how much of a legend he was.

“Unfortunately, I never got the chance to meet him but I know what he was all about. I know how important he is to this club and he’ll be a hero here forever.

“I grew up listening to my dad and others in my family talking about Tommy Gemmell and it meant a lot to me because he was also a left-back. It’s such a sad loss.

“I think about how he scored in big games as a full-back and that’s something which is just very, very special. He got 63 goals for Celtic – if I can get 63 shots from left back I’d 
be happy.”