During the summer, a crazy fever swept through Celtic cyberspace.
It infected nearly everyone, leaping from place to place like a bad dose of the flu.
Few were immune. The story that Kieran Tierney was on the brink of leaving our club was so widespread, so prevalent, that people just assumed it had to be true; they were hearing it from so many places, so many alleged sources, that there was no way it could be smoke without fire.
No-one bothered to wonder if the sources were all emerging from one particular place. No-one seemed to be calmly and rationally thinking that perhaps the media was doing what it always does, and cutting and pasting an attractive story in a manner that soon put it everywhere.
I’ve always wanted to write a lengthy article on how these things happen, on how a nonsense story evolves and leaps from the obscure click-bait blogs to sweep through the mainstream press, and onto Sky Sports News and other outlets … it’s like a huge multi-dimensional game of Chinese Whispers. One day I will. I’ll call it The Evolution Of A Lie.
I won’t say that I was completely untouched by the fever. I had my moments when I swayed a little, but through it all I tried to stick to some fundamental ways of looking at the situation, ever being aware that absence of proof didn’t mean it wasn’t true.
The fundamentals were these:
First, Kieran had, not long before, rejected any discussion of moves to the EPL, and that was at a time when Manchester Utd were said to be on the hunt. The stories were about Everton. Would Tierney have refused a move to a potential title winner only to be swayed by a mid-table team? And all for cold hard cash?
Second, he had signed a five year deal last season, when everyone knew big money from down south was on offer.
And third, Kieran himself had never, at any time, said anything that indicated his desire to leave the club in even the smallest, tiniest fashion.
If the story had legs they had grown out of nowhere.
We were talking about a player who has Celtic in his DNA, a player who was baptised into the faith as it were and who has never once wavered in his commitment to it. His passion for our club is evident in everything he does on the pitch and in the way he sits in the stands biting his nails like the rest of us when he’s not on it.
Kieran Tierney is Mr Celtic. I knew what I believed and why I believed it. The idea that he had, overnight, become a mercenary interested only in cash … to me it had all the hallmarks of a story that was plainly nonsense.
Today all that stuff has been washed away, as Kieran tells us that It was just that and that he remains “100% committed to Celtic.” As if we had any reason to doubt that.
And his comments come, of course, in the same week as the Boyata tale twists towards its end. You could not find a greater contrast between two footballers, could you? One talks of loyalty and commitment and what he owes the club. The other simpers and hides in a treatment room, putting his “career” first, the one Celtic has enhanced beyond measure, and who’s absence might have cost us a Champions League group stage shot.
Kieran gets it. Boyata does not.
I spoke to someone who knows a thing or two about the goings on inside Celtic Park, and he told me that you have to try to see things from a player’s point of view; he invoked the dreaded John Kennedy injury as proof. One bad moment can end your career. Some players can put that out of their minds and go forward. For others it’s always there.
Kieran is one of those who is not afraid. That and the love of the jersey send him into tackles and gets him up again when somebody hits him. Boyata won’t even walk onto the pitch at the moment in case he screws up his next move. I know who I would rely on all day every day even if KT were a tenth of the player he actually is.
Last season he was the most fouled player in the whole of the SPL. It looks certain to be the same again in this campaign. He barely misses games. In contrast is Simunovic, who if he breaks a toenail in a fifty-fifty ball pleads to be taken off.
What kind of men are these that they are so easily upstaged in the courage department by a mere kid? He has more fortitude than they do between them. He is the real deal. He could give them lessons in loyalty and dig and graft and commitment.
That’s why he’s a future Celtic captain and neither of them ever could have hoped to be.