HAVING squared up to the most expensive strikeforce ever assembled in the history of football in what has been another remarkable season in his embryonic career, Kieran Tierney was never likely to lose his focus as the result of some football pundits’ derogatory comments.

So, it is little surprise to discover the assertion by both Paul Ince and Mark Lawrenson – two former players with a limited knowledge of both Celtic and Scottish football – that Tierney will have to move on in order to fulfil his full potential on Football Focus has left him unperturbed.

The remarks, made on the BBC last Saturday, were picked up on by various media outlets and have led to renewed speculation about whether Tierney would be best furthering his career at a club in England.

Yet, the prodigiously talented 20-year-old left back, who signed a six year contract committing himself to Parkhead until 2023 back in October, remains confident he can develop and progress even further in Glasgow.

He argues, with some justification, that pitting himself against Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar of Paris Saint-Germain as well as Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller of Bayern Munich in the Champions League during the 2017/18 campaign has improved him as a player.

He also feels the fact that Brendan Rodgers’s side has qualified for the last 32 of the Europa League this term – two difficult games against Zenit St. Petersburg of Russia await in February – proves that definite strides forward are being made both by him and his side.

Speaking the week after the record-breaking 69 game unbeaten domestic run which Celtic had been on came to an end with a 4-0 hammering by Hearts at Tynecastle, he also defended the quality of competition in the Ladbrokes Premiership.

“They’re big names in the game and they have their opinions,” said Tierney. “But I’m sure they know how big Celtic is – everyone does because we’re one of the biggest clubs in the world. I certainly know how big a challenge it is to play here. When you’re expected to win every week it’s difficult.

“We have a young squad and last season we didn’t get anywhere in the Champions League group stage, but this year we’re in the Europa League so we’re progressing and working hard. The longer we stick together the better we’re going to be.

“I don’t think about it too much because I’m only playing to impress my manager, my family and the fans. I’ve heard a few people talking about what was said and you take it on board. If people criticise you then you just try to get better as a player. For me, it’s about doing all I can to make sure I’m playing at the weekend.”

Asked specifically about Lawrenson’s claim that playing in Scotland is easy for Celtic, he said: “It’s not at all. People probably thought it was because of the way we pressed and played, especially in the manager’s first season. To have gone so long without losing was crazy – that record had lasted for 100 years, after all.

“I don’t know if I’ve improved this season, but I hope so. I hope I have matured on the pitch. It is experience. The more games you play the more you come up against different kinds of players. The Champions League games, the big pressure games, the finals, help you as well. “Every game is different. You won’t get two games the same. You are always going to learn something from every single game. On the training pitch as well. It is hard to do much training just now because we have so many games, but any chance I can I will do extra on my weaknesses.”

As disappointed as Tierney was for Celtic’s undefeated run to come to an end last Sunday, he is able to look back on the unprecedented streak of form with considerable pride. At the same time, he remains keen to achieve greater things in the future.

“It’s been an iconic year,” he said. “We’ve achieved so much together as a team and we’re looking to kick on again. You don’t have enough time to sit down and reflect on all that’s happened. It’s just game, game, game so you don’t have time to think or to be proud of what you’ve done.

“It probably is a once in a lifetime record. Everybody knows that. But I think you can only really look back when you retire. Only then can you reflect. I suppose I will one day realise what we’ve achieved together, but for now it’s about focussing on the next challenge. For us, that’s Aberdeen.

“I know myself it’s not all going to be good days, I’ve had bad days too. We lost semi-finals to Rangers and Ross County and that wasn’t great. I know what defeat is like. I appreciate all the good times, 100 per cent. I’ve had bad injuries so I know what it’s like to sit on the sidelines. I appreciate what I’ve got and every second I’m playing football.”