Kieran Tierney returned to the Celtic side for the Scottish Cup fourth-round match against League One outfit Albion Rovers, played at Airdrieonians’ Excelsior Stadium on Sunday, 22 January 2017. He would be a welcome addition to the team after missing three-months with an injured ankle.
Kieran was one of four changes to the starting eleven from the 2-1 victory at Ibrox back on Hogmanay, with Cristian Gamboa, Nir Bitton and Dedryk Boyata also getting the call. It would prove to be a pivotal day for the Belgian defender, returning to the fold for the first time since the narrow victory at Kilmarnock back in November to make just his second appearance under Brendan Rodgers. Jozo Simunovic, Emilio Izaguirre, Callum McGregor and the suspended Erik Sviatchenko were the four men making way.
Comeback-man Tierney was involved in the highlight of a one-sided first half, his cutback on the half-hour mark finding Scott Sinclair on the edge of the box where the Englishman conjured up a sublime piece of skill to curl the ball high past Stewart in the Rovers’ goal, his shot clipping both post and bar on the way in. He was then denied a second goal by a linesman’s flag, a marginal but correct decision.
The procession towards Stewart continued after the interval, Boyata’s header crashing back off the crossbar and a clever effort from substitute Simunovic scrambled off the line. The hosts held firm until two pieces of magic in the closing 15 minutes from another second-half replacement, Patrick Roberts, settled the issue.
First, he left two bemused defenders in his wake before slipping Scott Brown in on the right side of the box, the skipper’s clipped cutback falling behind Moussa Dembele but the Frenchman adjusting his body shape to guide the ball home with his thigh for the 20th goal of his impressive debut season. Then the on-loan winger worked his way along the byline before setting up Stuart Armstrong at the far post. The strong-running midfielder had gone close twice previously with long-range drives, and it would be third-time lucky as he blasted home to finish things up at 3-0.
Brendan Rodgers was one satisfied manager as he reflected on his side’s winning start to the second half of the domestic campaign, taking time out to praise Scott Sinclair and his two returning stars.
“There were a number of items I was really pleased with. One, Kieran coming back. His thrust, his combinations with Scotty up that side, is very important for us. I was also really pleased with Dedryk Boyata. He’s hardly played at all but has been doing really well in training. He was flawless. Sharp in the tackle, defended well, good speed and passed the ball simple.
“All the players we have, I want to be here. If some want to be playing more, they need to look at it themselves. I’m happy with the squad. Because of the form of the other players, Boyata hasn’t played but you saw his professionalism. We have that quality in the team to create goals out of nothing. It was a wonderful finish by Scotty. In the second half, we upped the tempo a bit more and we should have more goals, but the clean sheet was important for us.”
And there was an ominous warning to Celtic’s domestic rivals, from man-of-the-match, Scott Sinclair.
“Having that [winter]break has freshened us up. We feel much sharper and we’re ready to go again. We’ve just got to take every game as it comes. Obviously, we want to win as many trophies as we can, but we’ve got to make sure [in]the games that count, [that]we win them.”
If Sinclair’s strike had been the highlight of the day then the draw for the next round, which took place afterwards in the Excelsior, ran it a close second. Rock legend and celebrity Hoops supporter Rod Stewart had attended the match and was invited to select the home sides, whilst former Celtic defender Alan Stubbs, the manager who had guided Hibernian to their first Scottish Cup win in 114 years the previous May, had the task of picking the away teams out of the bowl.
Chairing proceedings was bumbling SFA President Alan McRae, and what followed was comedy gold, as the man who looked hopelessly out of his depth at the best of times could only watch helplessly as Rod, like the blondes he wrote about in the 1970s, had some more fun.
At one point, Rod appeared to grab the brains of the amateur administrator before making exaggerated swooping actions into the bowl and declaring the number to the camera. Whether the singer had enjoyed the hospitality or was just ‘taking the Michael’ will forever remain between him and his God. What was clear, however, was his obvious delight as he drew Celtic a home tie, much to the amusement of Stubbs who, temporarily distracted, confused his 6 and 9 balls, calling out Greenock Morton as the Bhoys’ opponents rather than Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Rod then ended proceedings by completely ignoring McRae’s outstretched hand to exit stage left. In his neutral, impartial position as SFA President, he had once curiously claimed that Celtic winning trophies was bad for the Scottish game!
I imagine there were few Hoops supporters who would have felt any pity for his very public embarrassment on that memorable occasion. McRae perfectly reflects the ‘bowling club/jobs for the boys’ mentality upon which our governing body would appear to operate. It was no loss whatsoever to Scottish football when he stood down at the end of his term in June 2019, albeit the circus would continue with the appointment of Rod Petrie.
An extract from Invincible by Matt Corr, the story of Celtic’s wonderful, magical 2016/17 season. Incidentally Invincible will be available on Amazon kindle from sometime this week, for the first time, following the success of The Celtic Star’s other books on kindle. These are The Celtic Rising ~ 1965: The Year Jock Stein Changed Everything, Harry Hood – Twice as Good and Walfrid & The Bould Bhoys.
22nd January 2017, Albion Rovers 0:3 Celtic.
— Li'l Ze (@LilZe_7) January 22, 2023