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  • Kieran was delighted to be Naka's Boot Bhoy

    Kieran was delighted to be Naka's Boot Bhoy

    By: Martin Dalziel on 30 Dec, 2015 14:31

  • WHEN Kieran Tierney met one of his Hoops idols, Shunsuke Nakamura back in 2006, little did he know that he would eventually go on to start his own magical Celtic career at Paradise.

    Aged just 10, Tierney was invited to Celtic Park alongside his Under-11s team-mates to take part in a special training session with the Japanese playmaker as he prepared to head off to Germany with his national team for the 2006 World Cup.

    The starstruck youngster ended up dazzling the former Hoops star with his skills and close-control in a series of possession games and was rewarded with Nakamura’s boots when the exercise was over.

    Those boots still sit with pride of place atop Tierney’s chest of drawers in his bedroom at home and he told the Celtic View he still struggles to believe that he is now part of the Celtic first-team, like Nakamura once was.

    The young Celt said: “The World Cup was coming up that summer and Japan were going so we got asked to be in this video with him. We were all buzzing to be training at Celtic Park and after the warm-up, Naka came out.

    “We did passing and possession games and he was part of it. The experience of training with him was brilliant and it was after the training we were all sitting in the dugout and he took his boots off and when we saw that, all the boys got really excited.

    “He came and handed them to me and I was delighted because he was one of my heroes at the time. To train with him and for him to give me his boots was great.

    “He actually said it was because I was the best in the possession games but it was just a brilliant day.”

    Coming face-to-face with such a fans’ favourite was a rare occurrence for Tierney and his team-mates at the time, including fellow Celts, Aidan Nesbitt and Aidan McIlduff, and the encounter left a lasting impression on the full-back, who has since blossomed into one of the Bhoys’ most promising prospects in recent months.

    “I looked up to Naka,” he said. “All the Celtic fans and players loved him because he was such a good player. His technique was great whether he was scoring free-kicks or dinking the keeper. You could always rely on him at any time. He was a world-class player.

    “I remember beforehand that I told all my friends about how I was going to train at Celtic Park and they were all Celtic fans so they were a bit jealous. I had played at Celtic Park before, aged nine or 10, so to do it again was brilliant and to do it with Nakamura was special.

    “I know he was playing against 10-year-olds but his touch on the ball was unbelievable. It was just the same as what Scott Brown said about him. If he had to pick a player he’d have back at Celtic it would be Nakamura.

    “I asked Scott about him and he said that he can’t remember Nakamura ever being in the middle for a possession box. He just never gave the ball away and that showed on the pitch as well.”

    The remarkable turn of events that has seen Tierney go from starry-eyed fan to first-team player with Celtic is something that the 18-year-old still struggles to get his head around, and he said he sees his journey as something more akin to the plot of a film or a book.

    Meeting Nakamura as a youngster and winning his praise, only to go on and become a Celtic player in his own right, is just one of the many twists and turns in the Kieran Tierney story that he’ll never forget.

    “It’s crazy,” he said. “It’s just a story. It’s some story to tell. You see it with guys like Jesse Lingard at Manchester United who’s come all the way up too and Celtic fans are saying it’s the same situation.

    “There’s a picture of me aged six or seven with a Celtic strip on and my shinnies in, and I put that on Instagram and the fans have seen that and put it next to one of the pictures where I’m playing with the first-team in my kit.

    “There’s obviously the one with Emilio Izaguirre from when I was younger and they’ve used the picture where I’m coming on as a sub for him as well so it’s brilliant.

    “You look at Nakamura and he left as a hero. He’s a legend and all the fans love him. He came back not long ago and came on at half-time and the reception he got was brilliant. If I can have half the impact he had I’ll be happy.”

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