There are many things that link Celtic and Liverpool Football Clubs. Beyond the obvious renditions of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ there’s the passionate local fanbases, a history of excellence in European competition, an emotional memorial match in the immediate aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, the friendship between Jock Stein and Bill Shankly and of course a certain Kenny Dalglish.
In the modern age the gap is widening in terms of the ambitions of both clubs but they do share one similarity right now – having a brilliant Scottish left-back to call upon.
In fact, it goes further than that given both Kieran Tierney and Andrew Robertson started their careers with the Hoops, with the latter discarded when still a part of the club’s academy system, having to battle hard to engineer a fairy tale rise through the Scottish lower leagues and eventually winning a move to Hull City where he was spotted by Jurgen Klopp.
While Robertson is currently becoming famous on a global scale with Liverpool, marked as a stand-out by supporters in recent matches due to his tenacious defensive play and ambitious forward running, Tierney is firmly lodged as an undroppable fan favourite at the Glasgow giants under the guidance of former Reds boss Brendan Rodgers.
That two exciting, young talents both share the same position is both a blessing and a curse for the Scotland national team. On the one hand they have two stars with a huge ceiling of potential, on the other, one has to be shoe-horned into the starting eleven if both are to play.
When the duo have been fit it has been Tierney who has shown the versatility to be deployed elsewhere in the side, either at right-back or even at centre-back, to great effect.
Now a decision has to be made on which one should take the nation’s captaincy.
With Scott Brown again making himself unavailable for future selection in Scotland squads the question of who should become the long-term Scotland captain has come into sharp focus.
Both Jurgen Klopp and Brendan Rodgers have commented on their young defenders taking up the responsibility and Robertson himself had to comment this week on the prospect of who should succeed the veteran midfielder.
While the Liverpool full-back was diplomatic with his answers, he admitted most players would jump at the chance to be given the honour and it will no doubt be a major career goal to one day captain his country. In the short-term it may come as soon as this week with friendlies against Costa Rica and Hungary over the next few days and some key players like Tierney missing through injury.
There’s an argument to make that in terms of pure footballing ability that Robertson is ahead of Tierney right now, but irrespective of that, the Celtic man is the clear choice to lead his country forward and on his return to the national team squad, it’s a decision that new manager Alex McLeish must immediately make.
Already captaining Scotland in a friendly against the Netherlands, the 20-year-old wears his heart on his sleeve every time he takes to the pitch and has learned from one of the most successful captains in Scottish football history in club teammate Brown.
He is also far more likely to eventually become the permanent captain at the Hoops than Robertson is at Liverpool. Many of Scotland’s captains with more than 20 international appearances leading the national team over the last 50 years have also been the successful leaders for their clubs, a recognition that the experience of being given that responsibility on a week-to-week basis is a hugely influential factor on doing the same on the international scene.
The versatility factor is also an big reason to give Tierney the nod. A manager always wants his captain to play and given the Hoops defender has shown proficiency in three positions now, he can always be slotted into the starting eleven alongside Robertson, who has never really been tested away from his specialised position.
Given his love for Celtic, Tierney may never end up testing himself in a division as illustrious as the English Premier League like Robertson, but he’s a born leader and even taking into account his tender age must have faith shown in him by McLeish.
Scotland need their young, vibrant players at the forefront of the national team over the next few years and in any role Tierney leads that charge. The symbolism of publicly naming the defender as McLeish’s permanent leader would show everyone that the nation are heading into a new era.
In Robertson and his fellow international teammates, like Scott McTominay, the Celtic youngster has a strong squad to work with and if the rise of this trio in particular is anything to go by, the prospect of Scotland finally reaching the finals of a major tournament doesn’t seem so far fetched.