It’s nearly here! The Africa Cup of Nations 2017 kicks off this weekend and it’s a tournament we love and have covered in detail in the past on Just Football. Ahead of this year’s edition in Gabon here are a selection of promising young African talents that have risen to prominence and could play an essential […]
#GenerationNext is our regular section on Just Football profiling the upcoming young talents around world football that you need to know about. After reviewing the next generation of footballers in Sweden in the last instalment, next up we head to Scotland to take a look at Celtic youngster Kieran Tierney…
Kieran Tierney profile
Date of Birth: June 5th 1997
Position: Left Back
For most clubs, securing a fifth successive league title and reaching two domestic Cup semi-finals would be classed as a good season. However, Celtic, as the club motto proudly announces are ‘A Club Like No Other.’ The demands placed on the club by the fans are so high that many will be glad to see the back of a disappointing campaign.
To give perspective to the season, Celtic suffered an early exit from the Champions League against Malmö before following that up with a dismal Europa League campaign, finishing the group stage winless and in last place.
Furthermore, Celtic have now lost their last three domestic Cup semi-finals, leading to suggestions that the club lacks a big game mentality. That the Scottish Cup defeat came against city rivals Rangers merely furthered that assertion, rubbing salt into the wounds.
However, this season has not been all doom and gloom for Celtic. A fifth consecutive league title was secured – a great achievement in anyone’s book – and Leigh Griffiths exceeded all expectations by becoming the first Celt to score 40 goals in a single season since Henrik Larsson in 2003/04.
But it has been the emergence of Kieran Tierney at left back that has brought most joy to the Celtic fans this season.
Who is Kieran Tierney?
Celtic have a fine tradition of developing youth players and, while the flow of youngsters into the first team has reduced in recent years, Kieran Tierney is the latest to make the transition from Bhoy to man.
Tierney, born in the Isle of Man, grew up supporting Celtic after his family moved to Wishaw when he was still an infant. His talents were spotted by the club at an early age and he has been associated with Celtic through various development teams since the age of seven.
This culminated in a first team debut against Dundee at the tail-end of the 2014/15 season, when the teenager replaced Emilio Izaguirre in the closing stages of the game.
The following season, 2015/16, would prove to be Tierney’s breakthrough season. He made the left-back spot his own after deputising for the suspended Izaguirre in a Europe League tie against Fenerbahce.
Undaunted by the opposition, Tierney put in a performance beyond his years, marshalling the left hand side of the defence, bombing forward to support the attack whenever possible and, as has become his trademark, never shying away from a full-blooded slide tackle.
So impressive was Tierney’s performance that assistant manager John Collins stated he was playing more like a £5 milllion player than a raw 18-year-old; a value that will only have increased as the season has gone on.
“For the last three or four months he has been exceptional,” said Celtic captain Scott Brown. “Nothing fazes the wee man.”
Off the pitch Tierney is a quiet and reserved character who prefers to focus on improving his game rather than take much notice of the hype surrounding him. He models his game and style of play on the great Brazilian left-back Roberto Carlos and the comparisons in terms of approach to the position are clear to see.
Like Carlos, Tierney is an old fashioned full back. He is full-blooded and committed in the tackle, positionally sound, strong offensively, with the ability to land a cross on a sixpence, and has the engine to get up and down the line all game.
Unlike many modern full backs who seem to place greater importance on the offensive side of their game, often to the detriment of defensive duties, Tierney is the complete full-back. For Celtic fans of a certain vintage, he is the closest thing to Danny McGrain the club has had in years.
— CelticVines (@Celtic_Vines) May 16, 2016
KT, as he is also known, has already shown his big game credentials being one of the few Celtic players to emerge from this season’s European misadventure and Cup defeat to Rangers with pass marks.
His desire and passion to win every ball and every game has helped endear him to the Celtic support, who already see him as a future club captain and someone they can relate to on the pitch. Like them, he is a Celtic fan first and foremost.
A whirlwind breakthrough season which has seen Tierney move from second choice left-back to undisputed first choice and fans favourite was recently capped by his coronation as the Young Player of the Year in Scotland.
Furthermore, he was also awarded his first full Scotland international cap in March against Denmark at Hampden Park and topped a quite remarkable debut season by scoring his first senior goal for Celtic in their 7-0 rout of Motherwell on the final day of the season.
— Read Celtic (@ReadCeltic) May 15, 2016
What happens next?
Tierney’s performances for Celtic this season have alerted top clubs from south of the border as Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal have all been credited with interest in the young full back.
However, the youngster has been quick to pin his colours to the mast and has no intention of leaving Celtic – at least not just yet.
Celtic fans will no doubt be hoping that this is the case and that KT will remain at the club for many years to come.
For more player profiles on the best young footballers in the game follow Just Football on Twitter @JustFootball, Instagram or Facebook.
Kevin McCluskie is a new writer for Just Football with emphasis on the Scottish game. Find him on Twitter @KevinMcCluskie1.