Celtic: Kieran Tierney backs fellow academy youths for breakthrough

By Jonathan SutherlandBBC Scotland
Celtic's Kieran Tierney is congratulated by manager Ronny Deila
Tierney was praised by manager Deila

Kieran Tierney believes there are plenty of academy hopefuls ready to follow him into Celtic's first-team.

The 18-year-old was praised by manager Ronny Deila for his performance in Sunday's 5-0 defeat of Dundee United.

"Obviously we need to do well in the Under-20s training and Under-20 games," said left-back Tierney when asked about Celtic's youth academy.

"Everybody knows, if you do that, you'll get your chance, so everyone is working hard to get it."

Celtic paid £8m to construct their Lennoxtown training facility back in 2007 and the Glasgow club's academy has as its stated aim to strive "to develop first-team regulars who are capable of performing in the Champions League".

Over the past seven seasons, on average, fewer than two academy graduates have featured during their European campaigns.

Tierney has been one of that number - after playing against Fenerbahce this season.

Celtic graduates playing in European competition
12 players have graduated from Celtic's academy to play in Europe in the last seven years

"I've played in the Europa League, which was a big step-up for me, because I'd only played three or four first-team matches, so it was a big step," he said.

"But it was a step I was delighted to take and hopefully I can kick on."

Tierney produced an eye-catching display against United, winning a penalty that was converted by Kris Commons, and appreciated the manager's words of praise.

"That means a lot," he said. "It was great for him to come out and say that after the game.

"But, for me, the game was all about bouncing back from midweek and I thought we did that well."

New signings brought into the club pose a challenge to young players trying to break into the first-team, but Tierney says that is simply a fact of life at a club like Celtic.

"The manager is great with us all," he said. "He gives us all the opportunity to train with them.

Celtic academy graduates in Europe
2009/10 (Europa League)Aiden McGeady, Darren O'Dea
2010/11 (Champions League qualifiers)James Forrest
2011/12 (Europa League)James Forrest, Marcus Fraser
2012/13 (Champions League)James Forrest
2013/14 (Champions League)James Forrest
2014/15 (Europa League)Liam Henderson, James Forrest, Calum McGregor
2015/16 (Europa League)James Forrest, Kieran Tierney

"Of course it's hard, but at Celtic they want the best of players, so they're going to get great players, so it's all about hard work and proving why we should be there."

Tierney faces a tough job dislodging experienced left-back Emilio Izaguirre from the first-team, but he says the Honduran international is keen to lend a helping hand.

"Emilio is a great player, he's played in World Cups, Champions League, so I've still got a long way to go," he said.

"He's got great experience. I still look up to him and talk to him in training and he gives me tips. He's been great with me."

However, it is a Brazilian defender Tierney looks to as his ultimate inspiration.

"Roberto Carlos I looked at when I was younger," he revealed. "I try and play the same game as he did.

"He was always attacking, not afraid to shoot - and was a good defender as well."