I don’t know about the rest of you, but there are few things more pleasing in football than watching one of your own achieve greatness. But maybe it’s watching several of your own do that.
Anthony Ralston, making just his second start for Celtic, was on the scoresheet for the first time on Tuesday night with a powerful header from a Leigh Griffiths corner that Jamie Macdonald in the Kilmarnock goal was powerless to keep out. In his few appearances in the first team, Ralston has looked assured every time with another highlight these past few weeks being the nutmeg of Aiden McGeady in the Sunderland friendly.
Nothing measures the passage of time better that watching a current academy graduate roast a former one!
Ralston was joined by Calvin Miller, who also seemed to make the most of just his second appearance for the club, while Kristoffer Ajer followed up his assured performance against Rosenborg with a far easier night against a Kilmarnock team who were probably lucky to get 26% possession and a single shot all night.
With three teenagers in defence, it was left to our captain of the night to be the old head. 20 year old Kieran Tierney, fresh from his first outing as captain in the 5-0 win over Sunderland, managed to get the same score in a competitive match.
Of course, he played no small part in that scoreline. Two steps outside the centre circle and Kieran fired a strike straight into the top corner. If that’s not goal of the season, at least the one the Celtic fans vote for, then it’s probably because he did it again in Europe. Here’s hoping!
After the game, Sportsound’s Richard Gordon asked the question “Kieran Tierney, the best Scottish player since…” and left it hanging for an answer. Jim Duffy completely failed to answer it and instead chose to try and sell him to England. It seems certain pundits in Scotland are completely incapable of doing anything else than trying to ruin the game in this country be selling on our best talent at the first opportunity.
Tierney is his own man, but there is one obvious comparison that probably answers the question. Richard Gordon followed it up with suggestions of Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness, but they were both around the same time as Danny McGrain – another Celtic man who played on the wrong side for Scotland as Tierney has on two occasions now.
At only 20, it’s difficult to say just how good Tierney will truly become. You can only really compare him with others when his career comes to an end, which hopefully is another 20 years from now at least! But even now he’s making a massive impact on Celtic, Scotland and Scottish football as a whole.
And he’s one of us. I’ve said it before, but he’s the embodiment of every single one of us out there on the park. He’s us with the talent to make it. And we love it.
Compare him with the other end of the park. We all know Leigh Griffiths is a Hibs man at heart, and that although he enjoys scoring for Celtic and playing at the level we can offer – especially when that includes a couple of goals against Hearts as it did last Saturday – we know deep down he probably doesn’t enjoy it quite as much as Kieran Tierney.
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Griffiths hit goals 88 and 89 for Celtic against Kilmarnock, and everyone is now talking about him becoming the 29th Celtic player to score a century of goals for the club. Barring injury, it’s now a matter of when and not if Griffiths does that.
Indeed, at just 26 years old, what’s to stop Leigh going on to score another century after that? Henrik Larsson was the last man to do that, and he didn’t join Celtic until he was almost 26. If Griffiths did stick around long enough to do that, he’d be only the sixth man to do it. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves!
The next immediate target for Tierney, Griffiths and the rest of the squad is the first Glasgow derby of the season. Partick Thistle have started their season well, most recently going to McDiarmid Park and winning 3-0 to knock St Johnstone out of the League Cup. That came after three wins in their group and a draw against Livingston who then won the penalty shootout. That minor blip aside, the only real bump in Thistle’s season so far has been the 3-1 defeat away to Hibs in the league opener.
Thistle took the lead early on in that game through Chris Erskine, but conceded an unfortunate equaliser soon after and found themselves behind just after the half hour mark. A third goal from the spot ensured Hibs had a winning return to the top flight, and Thistle now find themselves with the daunting task of trying to follow that up against a team now unbeaten in their last 50 domestic matches.
Of those 50 games, just four haven’t been wins and Partick Thistle were responsible for one of those. In April, Ade Azeez cancelled out Scott Sinclair’s earlier opener. Sinclair later missed a penalty and Thistle were able to hold on to claim an a draw that helped them to their first top six finish since the split was introduced in 2000/01. Given that their other game at Celtic Park last season finished 1-0 to Celtic, you would expect a tough game.
However, the games at Firhill – like tonight’s fixture – tell a different story.
In December, Celtic won 4-1 as part of eight league wins out of eight that month. Goals from Stuart Armstrong either side of half time were almost instantly followed up by Leigh Griffiths getting the third. Thistle got themselves back into the game thanks to a goal from Liam Lindsay and also saw a second correctly ruled out for offside, but Celtic eventually got the fourth through Callum McGregor.
The most recent game in May was even more one sided. Griffiths opened from the penalty spot, before Tom Rogic doubled the lead before the half hour mark. Callum McGregor was again on the scoresheet, in between Patrick Roberts trying his best to make a mark on the goal of the season competition with two absolute crackers. Of course, that award had already gone to Moussa Dembele by that point, once again proving how daft it is to have these awards before the season is finished – although I’d probably still have given it to Dembele anyway!
Liam Lindsay has since moved on to Barnsley, while Azeez is now at Cambridge United. Kris Doolan, Thistle’s top scorer last season, is still around though and Thistle have also added Blair Spittal from Dundee United. Whether Thistle can make the top six again this season we’ll have to wait and see, but they’ll certainly fancy their chances of building on their achievements of 2016/17.
Meanwhile, we’ll no doubt have one eye on next week’s tie with Astana. The Kilmarnock match has clearly given Brendan Rodgers food for thought, with plenty of options apparently available in the squad and academy lineups.
How we manage our way through the remainder of this month will be as interesting to see as the action on the park, but if Tuesday night is any measure then we’re just a bit stronger in depth than many of us suspected.
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)