Neil Lennon has said that Kieran Tierney leaves the club as a Celtic legend.
Lennon has forgotten more about football than I’ll ever know but, on this, I’d respectfully have to disagree.
The Celtic boss said: “Kieran can go with his head held high and as a Celtic legend.
“I’d imagine he will be remembered very fondly. He’s been outstanding for this club.
“He has gone for a record fee, as have others in the past like Kenny Dalglish, Charlie Nicholas and Virgil van Dijk.
“You have to put Kieran up there with them and we’re proud of the way we’ve developed him.”
There are very few players who deserve the mantle of Celtic legend. Dalglish would be one of them, in my humble opinion. Nicholas, van Dijk and Tierney would not.
One thing Tierney has in common with Dalglish is that ambition played a part in their move.
Tierney has been part of a club that has suffered a couple of European kickings and players who see themselves reaching the top don’t like to be part of that.
In 1977, Celtic were a waning force. The board had been complacent and we had entered an era where some players were not content to ply their trade for less than their worth, for the honour of playing for the jersey.
Dalglish had seen the likes of Hay and Macari leave for England but Celtic still got another few years out of him.
Having put in a transfer request in 1975, Dalglish, to his massive credit, withdrew it after Jock Stein was seriously injured in a car carsh.
By then, it was clear Liverpool were on their way to becoming a European force. A club from a similar sized city as Glasgow would go on to dominate Europe and Dalglish became an integral part of it.
Dalglish wouldn’t know that Celtic would only get European football beyond Christmas once in the next two and a half decades, but he was smart enough to see the writing was on the wall as Celtic had long since entered an early version of the “slow lane”.
His eventual exit in ’77 provoked heartbreak and bitterness among the support, with Liverpool’s name being cursed every week when the half-times scores came through on the tannoy.
Dalglish, however, remains one of Celtic’s all-time legends, along with the likes of McGrain, McStay, McGrory, Larsson and the Lisbon Lions.
Charlie Nicholas, as talented as he was, doesn’t keep that exalted company. Charlie was a stunningly good player but left under a board that was happy to cash in him.
It would be wrong to say that Celtic fans never saw the best of him, but we probably did. His career at Arsenal was a disappointment and when he returned, it was to Aberdeen in 1988 rather than Celtic.
This was a further disappointment as Nicholas was targeted for a return in 1987, after we had lost Brian McClair and Mo Johnston from our strikeforce, along with Alan McInally.
As an aside, it’s a sign of how football has changed that McInally moved to Bayern Munich after a spell at Aston Villa, while McClair went straight to Manchester United.
Nicholas’ career was littered with bad decisions. Joining Arsenal and then choosing to remain there ahead of the Centenary Season being just two of them. Those who witnessed those magical early years couldn’t have imagined how his career would go.
His goals to games ratio was incredible and his skill was majestic. Had he remained at Celtic, and if my memory is correct he left in 1983 over what would have been a modest pay increase with a board conveniently not going to be “held to ransom”, he would have gone on to become a Celtic legend.
He did make a return to his first love, but Celtic were by then a club in turmoil and Nicholas, try as he might, simply wasn’t the mercurial talent that had exploded onto the scene a decade earlier.
Virgil Van Dijk is undoubted supremely talented and Celtic were lucky to have had him for a couple of seasons. But those fleeting years don’t earn you a place among the very best that have walked through the club’s doors.
He’ll become a Liverpool legend if he wins the league there, if he isn’t already considered one for winning the Champions League, but Celtic fans wouldn’t consider him so.
McGrain, McStay, the Lions all speak for themselves and then there’s Johnny Thomson, a brilliant and brave goalkeeper whose legend rings through the decades as the saddest of all Celtic stories.
Elsewhere, there are arguments over whether players throughout the years have been “merely” greats rather than legends.
In plain statistics, he has won the same amount of trophies as Stuart Armstrong, with eight apiece. He has pulled the jersey on only around 20 times more than Armstrong.
Tierney is not at that level and with a few years of professional service would be lucky to be considered a great. Being at Celtic from schoolboy years is not unique to him. Forrest and McGregor have done so, as have the likes of Jack Hendry and Andy Robertson before they left.
No one would consider Armstrong legend or a great and, with KT prepared to move last summer, it’s evident that the club was just a stepping stone for both, despite one being a dyed-in-the-wool Celt.
Sometimes, it’s not just what a player does on the field that counts. For that reason, Lennon could be counted among the latter, after putting himself through far more than most would consider in order to represent our colours and our club.
As a manager, he’ll never reach the levels of Jock Stein, who stands tall as our best ever, but he has the opportunity to write another brilliant chapter in our great history this season, having delivered a treble Treble after the desertion of Rodgers.
Standing up to the campaign of violence aimed at him as a player and then in his first spell as boss elevates him.
He’s right that Tierney shouldn’t be abused on social media for his decision. He served the club well when he played and would have ran through brick walls for the badge.
His emotion at the Invincible cup final showed what it meant to him after running through the streets from the hospital. It’s an iconic moment from a glorious day in our history.
Leaving when he did, however, means that wouldn’t be enough of such moments to be mentioned in the same breath as many of those he grew up idolising.