The story of Celtic’s left back position has been largely painful over the years. Emilio Izaguirre arrived after the 2010 Wold Cup and, for a few seasons at least, strengthened what was a perennial weak spot in the team. You’re going back decades, possibly to Danny McGrain himself, before you’ll find someone in the left back position Emilio wasn’t clearly a stand-out improvement on.
Having supplanted Emilio in the Celtic team, there’s a good chance that 18-year-old Kieran Tierney will make his Scotland debut tonight on his breakthrough season. It’s a great story for a player who has physicality and maturity beyond his years. We might just have a genuine player on our hands.
The echo of a big failure at left back still reverberates around the club. Seven years ago Sligo Rovers’ Seamus Coleman, was on trial at Lennoxtown, but was sent home as he wasn’t judged able to put pressure on Lee Naylor, during Gordon Strachan’s last season. Then reserve team coach, Willie McStay, recommended Coleman to Everton, where the player has turned into one of the best left backs in the English Premier League.
Assessing strikers is comparatively easy; there are objective statistics (goals scored) to inform your view, including at youth level. It’s not as easy assessing a defender, where picking a winner offers you only subjective opinions. Kieran has achieved far more than any of his teenage contemporaries this season, some of whom were more lauded than him.
Perhaps the crucial deciding factor in all this was who was given an extended run in the team. If you don’t allow your youth players to graduate (at the right time), and don’t sacrifice first team mainstays (at the right time) you’ll forever buy other teams’ graduates.