“S’appenin’ Bitton,” the shout Celtic man hears every single day

When Kieran Tierney returned to pre-season training in the summer 2017 he was filmed entering the club’s training ground and filmed saying hello to a teammate in a style all of his own. That teammates was Nir Bitton and the greeting from Tierney from 4 years ago is something that the Israeli International now hears every single day.

“S’appenin’ Bitton?” Tierney asked and that’s the way everyone who sees the Celtic utility man out and about uses.

“It became a big thing — in fact, it is still a big thing!” Bitton told Scottish Sun. “Even now, wherever I go in the city, people say it to me all the time. I will be out with my wife and kids and people will shout, “S’appenin’, Bitton”?

Emilio Izaguirre (L), and Nir Bitton of Celtic celebrate at the final Whistle with a young fan during the Scottish Premiership match between Rangers FC and Celtic FC at Ibrox Stadium on December 31, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

“It’s usually the first thing I hear. But it’s OK by me, I like a laugh and enjoy the banter. If it makes people feel good then it’s all good.”

The Glasgow banter is something Bitton cam appreciate after eight years at Celtic. His two young children were both born in Glasgow and he worries that they’ll develop Glaswegian accents! “Yeah, both my kids are Scottish. My daughter, Emma, is four-and-a-half, and my boy, Tom, is two-and-a-half.

“They are young Scots. But with all the respect to the Scottish people I don’t want them to have the Scottish accent! But we love this county, we love the people.

 Lionel Messi (R) of Barcelona and Nir Bitton (L) of Celtic during the International Champions Cup series match between Barcelona and Celtic at Aviva Stadium on July 30, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

“It’s been a good adventure for us as a family, and my wife and kids love it here. Sometimes I speak to my kids and ask them about Israel, but my daughter says she wants to stay in Scotland. For her, this is her home. This is where she was born and this is what she knows.”

When is playing days are over Bitton though plans to return to his homeland and to the warmer weather. “I’m 100 per cent sure we will be going back to Israel,” he said.

“If the weather was better I would maybe consider staying here. But for us it’s really difficult with the climate here.” He has two more seasons on his current contract at Celtic and who is to say that won’t be extended, so he is going nowhere anytime soon. Indeed that will mean he has over a decade of service to the club and he was asked if that would mean a testimonial for a player who has collected 16 major honours wearing the Hoops.

Nir Bitton celebrates with Leigh Griffiths Celtics 2nd goal against Malmo FF during the UEFA Champions League Qualifying Round Play off First Leg match between Celtic and Malmo FF at Celtic Park on AUGUST 19, 2015 in Glasgow, Scotland.(Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images)

“I’ve not even thought about that, and it’s not about that for me. I have been in Scotland for eight years now and I don’t take it for granted. I have seen a lot of people come and go at this club. So I believe it’s a great achievement for myself to be at Celtic so for long.

“But it’s not about the length of time you are at one club. It’s about trophies and titles. When I first came to Celtic I couldn’t have imagined being here for so many years.

“If you had said that to me I would have said, ‘No chance’. “My first season wasn’t the best as it took me time to adapt. The weather was difficult and I didn’t know the language. It was just a different mentality in Scotland. But with time I settled down, got into the team, and started to get the belief that you need. Since then I have really enjoyed my career at Celtic.

Nir Bitton of Celtic in action during the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match between Celtic FC and Motherwell FC at Fir Park on April 9, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

“It’s about paying back to the managers who have believed in me. And I have been through a few of them! But I will do whatever the club asks me to do, and if the coach asks me to play in goal then I will play in goal. Obviously the manager won’t pick me to play in goal, but I would do it if he asked me.”

He added: “For me, I don’t listen to the noise outside. I trust my ability and know who I am. A lot of times I think people judge me in the wrong way because I signed for Celtic as a midfielder.

“The fact is, I have played a lot of games in defence and I’m fine with that. I have watched a lot of games where top defenders make mistakes. All of them. There isn’t one defender who doesn’t make mistakes.

Nir Bitton celebrates with Virgil Van Dijk and Scott bROWN Celtics 2nd goal against Malmo FF during the UEFA Champions League Qualifying Round Play off First Leg match between Celtic and Malmo FF at Celtic Park on AUGUST 19, 2015 in Glasgow, Scotland.(Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images)

“But if I make a mistake people say, ‘It’s because he’s not a defender’. That’s why I don’t listen to the crowd and I don’t listen to the noise outside. I just try and do the best for my team, and the coach who believes in me.

“The best proof for me is when the coach picks me. If he doesn’t think I’m good enough then I won’t be picked to play. I think, with me, a lot of people are biased. They have their opinion of me and want to stick to that no matter what.

“They don’t need any excuse to make comment on me. I know when I have played a good game or played a bad game. Hopefully I’ll have a good game at Hampden on Saturday.”

That of course is the World Cup qualifier between Scotland and Israel – a must win match for both nations – and where Bitton will come up against Celtic captain Callum McGregor and several of his former Celtic teammates.

During the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 match between Celtic and FC Internazionale Milano on February 19, 2015 in Glasgow, United Kingdom. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

“It’s always good to play against those guys and have a battle,” Bitton admitted. Scotland playing Israel has become a freakishly regular occurrence in recent times has it not? “They are all very good players and I really respect them. But on the pitch there are no friends, no team-mates.

“We are all there to win the game and will try to do our best on Saturday to put ourselves in a good position.”

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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