Kieran Tierney is a player born and raised Celtic Football Club. Rising through the ranks he's a teenager making a top flight impact with his boy hood club. Very much living a dream with a determined outlook, his is a story about earning his hoops while storming Celtic Park.
Before we talk about where you’re at right now, can you tell us a bit about your football upbringing - has it always been a part of your life?
"Yeah, I started playing for my local team when I was just a boy, when I was about six. It was my local boys club and my classmates at school were all playing there so I went to join them. At seven years old, that’s when I got scouted by Celtic. Ever since then, I’ve been here at Celtic."
Can you remember the first point where football grabbed you and you knew it was where you wanted to take your life?
"I think it would have been after my dad started to take me to games. I was really young, maybe 3,4 or 5. Coming to games or even having a kick about with my dad. Those memories really stand out and I think it was from there where I fell in love with the game."
Are you Celtic through and through? You’ve obviously grown up with the club - are you a fan as much as a player?
"Yeah, 100%. I think everyone here at the club knows that. Even when I’ve been injured I’ve been desperate not to miss any games so it’s a hugely important place for me."
Leading on from that - growing up, what moments watching on really stand out for you?
"The successful ones are the ones I remember most. Winning all the cups we have, getting to finals and the Champions League nights. I’ve been lucky enough to experience a lot of them so it’s been a good time to grow up as a Celtic fan for me."
What players did you watch in awe of? Was there anyone you watched with real excitement? There’s obviously been a lot of incredible players at this club…
"I had a weird one. Because I am a defender and I grew up playing this position so I used to watch Bobo Balde. It’s hard to look past players like Henrik Larsson as they were just so massive. But from a defensive position, Balde was one I’d always look at."
Tell us how you’ve gone from the academy through to the first team, has it been a positive battle?
"No, not at all. There was a few years where I wasn’t getting game time and I didn’t know whether I would be offered a contract at that time, so it’s hard. I don’t think anybody really has a plain sailing youth career but I dug deep and worked hard when I needed too. Luckily I am where I am now thanks to that."
As well as moving towards the first team with Celtic, you’ve also gone further than simply being on the radar with Scotland - have you settled into life as a fully fledged professional now?
"I’d say so. I’ve got good people around me who have helped me do that. Obviously I couldn’t do what I have without team mates and the coaching staff we have. I’ve got a lot of people to be thankful for but as much as I can I try to keep my head on the ground and always be grateful."
You seem like quite a dynamic player with various qualities - How would you describe yourself on and off the pitch to someone who has never met you or see you play?
"On the pitch, I think people would say there’s a lot of aggression and passion. Off the pitch though, I’d probably say I’m quite quiet. I’ve got good banter, you’ll have to ask my teammates."
There’s a lot of quality players in the Celtic side right now, are you enjoying being able to grow as a player with a positive influence of others in the squad?
"Yeah, this season has been brilliant for that. There’s been so many stand out players on the pitch. Scott Brown this season has been immense, Dembele, Scott Sinclair, Patrick Roberts, there’s so many good players here."
Who would you say has had a big effect on you as a role model? Are there players you look to with a lot of admiration?
"Scott Brown 100%. Since day one It has to be him. I knew him before I made it into the first team because he would take under-20s training while he was doing his coaching badges so I got to know him then. But all the way from then to now, he’s been a big influence for me. A real leader."
Playing in the Champions League in front of a packed house, that’s got to be a bit of a whirlwind - how much do you thrive off those opportunities?
"For sure. That’s what footballer’s dream of. You can see players from all over the world with quotes saying “you have to play at Celtic Park, there’s no atmosphere like it”. I’m doing that and it’s my home crowd too so there really is nothing like it. It’s a real dream."
What emotions go through your head when you see a Celtic shirt hanging in the changing room with your name on?
"It’s mad. It’s definitely something you dream of as a wee boy. Getting the chance to play for Celtic, being given the opportunity and everything that comes with it. I’d like to thank obviously Ronny Deila for giving me my chance last season and Brendan Rodgers for carrying that through this season. It’s important to have been shown that belief."
Can you explain what that feeling is like when you get called up to play for the national team? It must be pretty surreal.
"That is a great feeling as well. It’s not one that I experienced until last year as I didn’t play for the Scottish side at youth level all that much so when Gordon Strachan called me up I was very grateful for the chance. He’s given me two caps now too so hopefully I can continue and get more."
You must have collected some particularly special shirts from games, are you hanging on to the mementos?
"I’m hanging on to mine, yeah. I’ve only ever swapped shirts once. That was with John Stones in the home game against Manchester City here at Celtic Park. That was a good shirt to swap and the rest of my shirts I do like to keep for myself and my friends and family."
The fans are on another level aren’t they? Can you feel their energy when you’re out there? That must have been quite a huge thing to adjust too.
"Obviously coming through the youth levels, you’re not used to playing in front of any crowds so when you come to Celtic Park and you’re playing in front of 60,000 every week it’s something very different. I was obviously used to it from a fan's perspective so you know how many fans are going to be there. That part isn’t a shock but as a players, you have to adjust quick. It’s not a negative though, the fans really help you play here and they give you confidence so it’s all good."
What do you think it’s like for those around you do you think - your friends and family must be enjoying your journey just as much as you are?
"Yeah, 100%. I don’t think my dad and my family could be enjoying it anymore. It’s everything they dreamed of as well so it’s big. They come to every game but they’d be here anyway, even if I wasn’t playing so they’re living the dream as well as me so it’s great to be able to experience it with them."
It must be hugely important to have the right people around you. When it comes to advice and support - is that something you’ve found?
"My dad and family have done so much for me. Taking me up and down to training every night for the last ten years and my mum has done everything for me at home so I’ve got so much to be thankful to them for."
How would you describe this season for you personally so far - are you enjoying it?
"We started the season well. Qualified for the Champions League and got a couple of International call-ups but then obviously in October I had to get an operation on my ankle and shoulder so that was a bit of a set back. It’s not my first injury though and it won’t be my last so it’s all about learning."
You’re the best part of thirty points clear of Rangers but does it feel like a different level of competition this season to have them back in the league?
"No, it’s a hard league no matter who is in it to be honest. It’s just our job to beat the team that’s in front of us so we just take every game as a challenge ahead."
What’s it been like to work with Brendan Rodgers, he’s obviously not afraid to put young talent out onto the pitch?
"No he’s not, that’s true. He’s showed that this season. Me and Patrick Roberts are both still teenagers and he hasn’t been afraid to put us in there and keep giving us our chance so he’s been great and I’ve got a lot to thank him for, that’s for sure."
If you could describe the life in the first team to your younger self say 5-10 years ago, how would you describe it?
"It’s everything you imagined. I get to go to training and enjoy playing the game every day. You get to have a smile of your face by playing for the team you supported growing up so, it’s a dream."
Kieran Tierney and his Celtic FC teammates wear kit provided by New Balance – available here
Photography by Adam Barnsley for SoccerBible.