NEIL LENNON insists Kieran Tierney can leave Celtic with “his head held high” after his £25million switch to Arsenal on Thursday.

The Hoops boss believes the 22-year-old Scotland international left-back should be rated a club legend alongside the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Charlie Nicholas and Virgil Van Dijk who all took the cash-rich trail to England’s top flight before him.

Lennon would have much preferred to keep the player, but accepted the club could not stand in his way with the London side prepared to make him the most expensive Scottish footballer in history.

However, the Irishman was quick to shoot down harsh criticism of Tierney from some quarters which he insists is unjust and unworthy.

Lennon, speaking to the Evening Times, said: “You’ve seen Kieran’s quotes. He loves the club and achieved everything he could in his short period of time.

“From a professional point of view, he sees this as a new challenge.

BAWL BHOY…the endearing image of Kieran Tierney in a Celtic shirt.

“I understand the disappointment, I share it myself, but there shouldn’t be any vitriol. He’s been a very good player for us, but the club goes on. There are still very good players in the building.”

The Parkhead gaffer added: “I would imagine he will be remembered very fondly. He’s been outstanding for this club. He broke into the team at 17 and never looked back, became a multiple winner of trophies and someone who has performed on the European stage and for his country.

“Even when he played right-back for Gordon Strachan with Scotland the game looked easy for him.

“So, Kieran can go with his head held high and as a Celtic legend. He has gone for a record fee, just like others in the past like Kenny, Charlie, and Van Dijk – you have to put Kieran up there with them.”

Lennon is now tasked with the challenge of replacing Tierney and has already spent £3million on Boli Bolingoli from Rapid Vienna, but he has admitted the search will continue for another player to strengthen the No.3 position which had been further depleted by the exit of Emilio Izaguirre at the end of his contract last season.

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