This interview was originally scheduled for April 7 but they say if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.
Kieran Tierney had big plans, too. He wanted to help Arsenal to a top-four finish in the Premier League. He wanted to take Scotland to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. But on the eve of our original meeting, some pain in Tierney’s left knee led to a scan which led to surgery which led to three months on the sidelines.
It was a difficult time for this likeable 25-year-old. Thankfully, he’s now fit and free from discomfort. He is set to be in the squad for tonight’s season-opening trip to Crystal Palace but first, he’s here to meet Sportsmail columnist Chris Sutton at St Michael’s Manor Hotel in St Albans for a highly anticipated chat. Reporter Kieran Gill listened in.
Sportsmail columnist Chris Sutton sat down with Kieran Tierney for a highly anticipated chat
CHRIS SUTTON: How’s the knee, Kieran?
KIERAN TIERNEY: I’m ready. I’m good to go. I went to a training camp in Marbella in the summer and worked there for 10 days to get fit, me and the sports scientists and physios and a few others. In a sad way, I know my way around an injury now. But it definitely doesn’t get any easier.
SUTTON: I felt so sorry for you. Your knee clicks in training and suddenly, no more football for months. I want to take you back to when you moved from Celtic to Arsenal on Deadline Day in 2019. Did the £25million fee weigh on your mind?
TIERNEY: Maybe. But I was proud of it as well, becoming the most expensive Scottish player ever.
When asked about how his knee was, Tierney said he was feeling good and that he was ready
SUTTON: Arsenal chased you for a while, didn’t they?
TIERNEY: First when Arsene Wenger was in charge. I was only 18 years old, played maybe 35 games for Celtic and a few times in the Europa League. But I was still a boy. I wasn’t ready. You see some players move early and it doesn’t work out.
SUTTON: How difficult was that decision to eventually leave Celtic? You’d been there since the age of seven. You won, what, three Trebles? Four?
SUTTON: Just the three! Your family are all Celtic fans. You’re a Celtic fan. How hard was that?
TIERNEY: Easily the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make because of how much it pulled on my heart strings. My family loved going to Celtic games and seeing their son, brother, nephew, cousin play and I felt bad taking that away from them.
Tierney said Arsenal first made a move for him when he was 18 and Wenger was in charge
SUTTON: You were an incredibly popular player up there but as you know, there’s a small section of supporters who are unforgiving if you leave. Was that a concern for you and your family?
TIERNEY: We’d seen the reaction that Brendan Rodgers had got (when he left Celtic for Leicester), so it was kind of scary. But it’s a very small minority.
A lot of people messaged me saying: ‘All the best’, ‘We’re so proud of you’, ‘Go down there and smash it’. I still look back and see those as my best days — to be playing for your boyhood club. I lived the dream.
SUTTON: So it’s Deadline Day, 2019, Sky Sports News have been discussing your future all day until Arsenal finally have you and you’re on a private plane bound for London…
Tierney said leaving Celtic was the hardest thing he had to do as it pulled on his heart strings
TIERNEY: It was easyJet! The Arsenal fans were tracking my flight!
SUTTON: I hope Arsenal sprung for extra legroom for you, at least. Was that a mad day?
TIERNEY: It was a phone call. One minute I was home and telling my mum: ‘I’m staying. Nothing’s happening.’ Two hours later, I get a call: ‘You need to pack. You’re moving.’ I had no time to think.
SUTTON: Were you totally confident that you’d smash it in the Premier League or slightly scared while sitting on that flight?
TIERNEY: I was nervous. In the Premier League, there are all these superstars and you never see yourself as one of them. But as soon as I got here, I wanted to work hard to prove myself.
Tierney credits Brendan Rodgers for teaching him about tactics when he was at Celtic
The manager and board liked me because they paid the money. But the team were maybe thinking: ‘Who’s this guy from Scotland that we’ve signed?’ I wanted to prove myself to my new team-mates.
SUTTON: You mentioned Brendan Rodgers. How big was he for you at Celtic?
TIERNEY: When you’re younger, you don’t know about tactics, but he taught me about football. I don’t think I’d be the player who got a move without him. He shaped me.
SUTTON: You’ll get to tell him that in person when Arsenal play Leicester next week!
Tierney suffered from homesickness when he first moved to London. Covid-19 didn’t help because it stopped him from seeing his family.
Arsenal helped him through that and now St Albans, the Hertfordshire city close to the club’s training ground, feels like a second home.
Tierney (pictured with manager Mikel Arteta) said experiences homesickness when he arrived
Still there is an unbreakable connection between this Scot and his homeland. Ask Tierney his three favourite footballers and he’ll name a trio of Celtic greats — Scott Brown, Henrik Larsson and Bobo Balde.
SUTTON: Where am I?
TIERNEY: You’re fourth!
SUTTON: (laughs) I don’t begrudge you having Bobo in there. For anyone not aware of Bobo, he was famous for hitting people indiscriminately in the tunnel at Celtic Park.
He was a brilliant performer, 100 kilos of ripped mass. Celtic had a few ferocious trainers. Bobo was one of them and you’re another from what I hear.
TIERNEY: Even Steve Clarke, the Scotland manager, has told me: ‘You don’t need to train at 100 per cent every single day!’ But I do.
Scott Brown, Henrik Larsson and Bobo Balde (pictured left) were Tierney’s Celtic idols
It’s what I need to feel ready. If I’ve got three games in the next week, you might think: ‘I’ll take this session easy.’ But as soon as it turns competitive, I want to win.
SUTTON: That’s not a bad thing! Look, I know you. You’re a down-to-earth lad who happens to be a brilliant left back. Did you find it strange when you went viral on social media for bringing your boots to a game in a Tesco’s carrier bag?
TIERNEY: I’m not sure it would’ve been too much of a big deal in Scotland! But it’s not the norm down here. Tesco’s is right next to my flat! That’s one of the three places I went when I moved to Arsenal. I’d go from the training ground to Tesco’s to my flat!
SUTTON: I did hear you didn’t venture into London much after moving.
TIERNEY: Going into busy cities doesn’t interest me. I’m a bit of a hermit! When I first moved, if I had two days off, I’d be driving home to Scotland. But now I’m happy here. I’m proper settled.
Tierney (right) will be featuring alongside his team-mates in Arsenal’s All or Nothing series
Ask anyone at Arsenal about Tierney and invariably they’ll say: ‘A nice lad.’ An hour in his company confirms that, and that will no doubt come across in the club’s Amazon Prime documentary.
A clip from that programme swept across social media this week because it showed Mikel Arteta blasting You’ll Never Walk Alone over loudspeakers during a training session. It was to prepare the players for their trip to Liverpool’s Anfield at the weekend.
SUTTON: I imagine you liked that, given it’s a Celtic song as much as a Liverpool anthem.
TIERNEY: I had a great training session! I’m sure I said at the time: ‘We sing it better!’
SUTTON: Some people have taken the mickey out of Arteta for that idea. But it shows attention to detail, doesn’t it?
TIERNEY: You need to try things. If it works, amazing. If it doesn’t, it’s not because of that. We’ll do whatever we can to be prepared.
Tierney says likes competition and insists he is happy Oleksandr Zinchenko has joined Arsenal
SUTTON: Arteta played for Rangers. Do you ever discuss that?
TIERNEY: All the time. He was hammering me last season because they were in the last-16 of the Europa League, then the quarter-finals, then the semi-finals.
After the final (which Rangers lost to Eintracht Frankfurt) he never said a word! He’s the boss so I can’t say too much to him! Don’t worry, the silence was deafening!
SUTTON: Oleksandr Zinchenko has come in, another left back, though he can play in midfield. Did Arteta have a word with you about that?
TIERNEY: No, but I’m not surprised because I’ve never had that. At a club like Arsenal, you need competition. For where we want to go, you need at least two players for each position. He is a great signing.
SUTTON: Do you embrace the competition?
TIERNEY: Genuinely, I love it. I love being up against it. I’m coming back from injury. I know I’ll need to work my way back. But I’m ready.
Tierney also admitted that he and Mikel Arteta joke about Celtic vs Rangers as they used to play for the two clubs (Tierney for Celtic and Arteta for Rangers – pictured above)
SUTTON: Did we first meet at a PFA Scotland awards evening? You used to win everything. There were hundreds of people there and you were probably the only sober one. You look after yourself.
TIERNEY: I do everything I can. I’ve even got a chef now!
SUTTON: Johnny McCallum, one of the club’s chefs. I’d heard you two live together. My daughter, Sophia, made me a cheese sandwich for this trip. You’ve got a chef and I’ve got my 10-year-old cooking for me!
TIERNEY: I’d cook the same meal over and over. Chicken and pasta, and maybe a Pot Noodle to break it up! Cooking was my big downfall.
SUTTON: Handy to have a room-mate like Johnny, then, keeping you right. But being teetotal, that’s a sacrifice you make for your football.
TIERNEY: People might look at me and think: ‘He’s injured again, he’s unprofessional.’ But I do everything I can to look after myself.
SUTTON: What would a perfect season look like for you, personally?
TIERNEY: Personally, staying fit, getting a run of games, finding form. Collectively, getting into the Champions League and winning a trophy.
The signings have been amazing, like Gabriel Jesus from Manchester City. The first thing I said to him was: ‘I hated playing against you!’.
So I’m buzzing he’s on our team now. There is a feeling in the camp, a different hunger, a different desire.
Even the 6-0 win over Sevilla on Saturday. It’s a pre-season friendly but you can only beat what’s in front of you. We’ve got enough to be optimistic this season.