The transfer that no Celtic fan wanted to see was finally announced earlier this evening; Kieran Tierney, the Bhoy from the Isle of Man who lived the dream, is now a Gunner.
A first-team regular since the 2015/16 season, Tierney had a trophy-laden start to his career with Celtic, winning 8 major honours; however, he missed out on the 16/17 League Cup final and last season’s Scottish Cup final successes during Celtic’s Treble Treble run as the Bhoys continued to dominate Scottish football.
For some, Tierney’s departure has been hard to take and a bitter pill to swallow. He has been labelled a liar, a turncoat, and a rat for turning his back on the chance to help Celtic claim a 9th successive League title, and maybe even a 10th next season.
The justification for the abuse that’s been thrown his way: “If he was a real Celtic man, he’d stay for life.” Therefore, by choosing to leave, especially in what could be a historic 9-in-a-row season, Tierney is now viewed by a section of the support as a fraud, not a real fan, someone who led us on with his megaphone antics leading the Green Brigade in song after Cup Finals and Glasgow Derbies.
Nah, he was never really “one of us”. Never truly part of the tribe. Not even that good anyway.
The anger is understandable. Tierney IS that good, and he IS “one of us”, a Celtic fan.
As a fan of Celtic, of any club for that matter, there is very little you wouldn’t do for the chance to live the dream of playing for your club. For the vast majority of us, that simply isn’t an option through lack of ability or determination to make it.
Instead, we live vicariously through the young lads that come through the Academies and youth teams. We make large emotional investments in these players; cheering their successes louder than those of any other player, and cursing their missed places with more ferocity than we would ever dare curse those of a multi-million-pound signing. It’s a tough love, borne out of our own unfulfilled desires to grace the hallowed turf of Celtic Park or the Emirates; a desire to hear the fans chant your name as you score a winner or lift another trophy aloft.
To see a player throw all that away is unimaginable to us as fans because we crave that adulation so much, even if only for one day, that it becomes nigh on impossible to think of giving it up.
But what we forget is that, no matter how much the player, Tierney in this case, is a fan of his club, he is also a professional who wants to test himself at the highest possible level.
Tierney has won every available honour there is in the Scottish game, more than once. He has earned the right to test himself in another league, against new opposition instead of playing the same opponents 4 times in a league season. He’s earned the right to put himself in the same window as Andrew Robertson, Scotland’s current first-choice left-back, and prove that he is every bit his equal in the same league. He’s earned the right to play for a team that has the potential to challenge for European honours, or at least to get to the latter stages of European competition on a regular basis.
In short, Kieran Tierney had outgrown Scottish football and to prevent the stagnation of his talents and his career, something had to give. With Celtic tied to playing in Scotland and unlikely to be a force in Europe anytime soon, a move away was inevitable.
As for those who believe the timing was wrong and he should have stayed for 9-in-a-row and then leave, those same people would harass Tierney for leaving next summer because he should stay for the 10, and so on. There is no right time to leave in a situation like this that pleases everyone, but maybe this was the right time to leave for the good of his career.
So, Arsenal fans that have read on this far, what are you getting for your money?
Tierney is a complete full-back; dynamic and direct going forward, full-blooded and committed in defence. Naturally a left-back, he has also filled in at right-back for the national team and at centre-back for Celtic, mainly as the left centre back in a 3 man defence.
Over the past three seasons, Tierney built up a strong relationship on the Celtic left with Scott Sinclair with the pair being responsible for creating numerous goals through their clever combinations and link up play; expect something similar with Lacazette or Pepe next season.
Tierney is quick, able to beat his man in one-on-ones, and an excellent crosser of the ball.
Defensively, Tierney’s game has also improved as he has sharpened up his positional play and very occasionally will an opponent get the better of him. Even when they do, Tierney is generally quick enough to recover and is a strong but fair tackler who will add a tough edge to the Arsenal backline.