Nine-in-a-row champions, twice over. Glasgow Celtic.

Kilmarnock was Scottish League Champions in 1965. Celtic won the Scottish Cup that year. In 1966 Celtic won the first of their nine-in-a-row league titles. Rangers won the Scottish Cup. 1967, and Celtic won everything, including the European Cup, with a team of players that lived within a twelve miles radius of Parkhead. Bobby Lennox was the furthest away from Paradise, one of three players, with ‘Caesar’, Billy McNeil, and to have played in all nine Championships between 1965-1974.

Jimmy Johnstone has been often polled as Celtic’s best- ever player, but Stein was ruthless, when his legs were gone, wee Jinky was gone. Celtic also won the Glasgow Cup in 1967. With Rangers in it, the year they got to the Cup Winners Cup final, Celtic had to win it and they did. Nothing has come close to that year, with the added bonus of beating Real Madrid in the Bernebeu, playing in Di Stefano testimonial, but the talk was all of the mighty Jimmy Johnstone.  

Stein had a Quality Street reserve team coming through to maintain standards. Kenny Dalglish, Davie Hay, Danny McGrain, Lou Macari. Despite being favourites, Celtic lost the European Cup Final to Feyenoord, after extra-time and having scored first. Ironically at the home of Inter Milan who were first to score and were beaten 2—1.Celtic were also outplayed. Time for a changing of the old guard.

Neil Lennon came in as Celtic manager after Tony Mowbrays’s Celtic team were thrashed by St Mirren and Celtic lost narrowly to Rangers in the league that year. Lennon led us to our first of the current nine-in-a-row titles, but at Rugby Park he looked to be on the way out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtmkHcNlRQQ.

Lennon led us to three league titles in a row and that magnificent win over Barcelona, arguably, the best team ever to arrive at Parkhead.

Ronny Deila was appointed manager of Celtic in June 2014. He was a bright new manager, a gamble on the Celtic board’s part,  who went on to lead Celtic to two consecutive league titles, but never had control of the dressing room. Remember Kris Commons, Scotland’s Player of the Year and a twenty-plus goal a season man, reduced to the bench and flinging his shirt ad Deila after being substituted against Molde in the Europa league, despite having scored. Jimmy Johnstone once did something similar with Jock Stein, he shouted through the door in the manager’s room something—thought to be derogatory—ran away and hid in a dark room for a week, before the other players told him it was safe to come out. Deila was on the way out when Rangers beat us in the Scottish Cup, despite their team being in the First Division. Media talk was of the Rangers being back. (Hibs beat them in the Scottish Cup final).

  In May 2016, Brendan Rodgers was announced as Deila’s replacement and around 12 000 fans turned up at Parkhead to welcome the new manager. He delivered two-and-a-half treble trebles of Scottish League, League and Scottish Cups before turning Judas and leaving for Leicester City. It was no secret he was leaving, but to leave half way through a season lacked Celtic class.

Neil Lennon came in as Celtic caretaker manager and he finished the job of another treble. In his first season in charge he had another treble in his grasp, having won the League Cup, a victory over Rangers. Still in the semi-finals of the Scottish, favourites to win it and 13 points clear of Rangers before being declared Champions once again because of the Covid-19 virus pandemic.

Celitc’s best eleven in the years of Lennon, Delia, Rodgers and Lennon again.

Goalkeeper: Fraser Forster. His European displays under Lennon in his first outing and then as a loan player also in Europe and in the League Cup final against Rangers, where he was head and shoulders above everybody else on the pitch makes this an easy one to pick.

Right back. Mikael Lustig held the spot for most of the nine-in-a-row years. He scored against Rangers a few times and was largely dependable. But his time was up. I wasn’t sad to see him go.

Virgil Van Dijk, European Cup winner with Liverpool. Touted as world player of the year. He oozed class because he was class. Simple.

More difficult to pick who to play beside him. Nobody really stands out. I’ll go with Christopher Jullien, he scored the winner in the League Cup final against Rangers and I think he can go on to great things. Put it this way, I was thinking of Charlie Mulgrew as an alternative.

Left back, easy, easy, Kieran Tierney. Celtic class. His only opposition would come from the man he largely replaced. Emilio Izaguirre under Lennon in his first shift as manager was outstanding.

Scott Brown is the Brownie. He’s had his critics, including me, but against Rangers and everyone else in general, he’s that clichéd 110% man. Leads on the field and off it. He’s been in every Celtic team that won nine-in-a-row and captain for most.

Callum McGregor has played almost every outfield position in the team, because he’s so gifted. Best midfielder in Scotland by some distance. Long may it last he signs another five-year deal. Gives you goals too.  Outstanding.

James Forrest, I’m being a bit hypocritical here. Like Scott Brown he has nine league medals to his name. Neil Lennon used to tell us what a great player he was. We’d watch the match and say, what the fuck? But Forrest scored in big games; he’s got pace and is always a threat. He does the doggies, getting back and helping to defend too. Underrated.

Two strikers up front. Number one striker, Moussa Dembele. Pace, strength, goals. He’s the beast that bullied Rangers. Top class.

Odsonne Edourad can do everything Dembele can do and more, but hasn’t got his strength. It remains to be seen which of the French strikers will go further. We have little chance of keeping Edouard, he’s only 21. But he’s been a joy to watch. Player of the Year in waiting.

Rodger’s played Olivier Ntcham behind the strikers in some matches. The French trio, as you’d expect, were outstanding. But here I’d go for Ryan Christie or Tom Rodgic. Ironically, neither of these two is guaranteed a start in the current team.

Picking between Lennon and Stein is quite a simple choice Jock Stein is the best football manager Scottish football has seen. That includes Alex Ferguson, his understudy in the Scotland job.

Celtic’s nine-in-a-row team under Stein weren’t great for goalkeepers. Ronnie Simpson, John Fallon (never saw him play). Evan William and the rest were distinctly average.

The best of both nine-in-a-row teams.

Goalkeeper Fraser Forster.

Right back is an easy pick: Daniel Fergus McGrain. The best full back in the world was sometimes moved to left back to play for Scotland and give Rangers player Sandy Jardine a game. Danny McGrain could play left back almost as well as he could play right back.

Virgil van Dijk and Billy McNeil, what a central defensive pairing that would have been. In reserve, I’d have Pat Stanton, who was a truly elegant sweeper.

Left back pits Kieran Tierney against Tommy Gemmell who scored in a European Cup final to win the trophy. Need to go for Gemmell. Like Tierney he could defend and get forward and had a bullet-type shot.

Lennon, Auld, Murdoch and Johnstone would fill the midfield slots.

Kenny Dalglish, the best of the Quality Street Kids (apart from McGrain) would also be in the team.

Striker, I’d go with Moussa Dembele and not Stevie Chalmers or Dixie Deans. If I could play Henrik Larsson the pick would be easy. Henrik is King of the non-nine-in-a-row teams. Long may it last. Waiting for ten or more.    Hail, Hail.

Celtic 5—Rangers 1.

dembele.jpg

gloat

ɡləʊt/

verb

gerund or present participle: gloating

  1. dwell on one’s own success or another’s misfortune with smugness or malignant pleasure.

“his enemies gloated over the Huns death”

synonyms: delight in, relish, take great pleasure in, enjoy greatly, revel in, rejoice in, glory in, exult in, triumph over, crow over;

 

It was a long time coming, a few phoney wars and some people might even have watched Scotland playing Malta, but then the media campaign ramped up, with special Old Firm pull-outs and countdowns to the big game. A bombardment of World War 1 proportions to soften us up. Joey Barton’s Twitters were raided for back-page news, and his media pal Robbie Savage reminded us he’d be the best player in Scottish football be some distance. I must admit I was a bit scared, he might be something special, and he did nearly score in this game with a back pass to his own goalkeeper, Wes Fotheringham that had the Ranger’s keeper scrambling to save it. Yes, it was confirmed, after Tom Rogic spun away and left him and his midfield partner Niko Kranjcar on their arses so often, the Ger’s duo were indeed something worth watching.  They were part of that great Ranger’s tradition of giving people money for nothing. I’m not even going to mention Philippe Senderos, because that would be too cruel. Like all great players he did his talking on the pitch, but left early having been given the run-around all afternoon to get his head together and catch the mobility bus home.

Barcelona rested seven of their first-team regulars against a newly promoted La Liga team, Celtic didn’t, but they did bring on Stuart Armstrong, who can’t be considered a first pick, but did score the fifth goal. The notable omission was Leigh Griffiths, the one player from the Ronnie Delia era that could hold his head up and who carried us to the league title last year and who has started in such fine form this year. I must admit his stand in Moussa Dembele did alright, setting up a goal for Scott Sinclair (who’s actually English) and scoring a hat trick in an Old Firm game isn’t easy. The last Celt to do so wasn’t Larsson, as you’d expect, but two generations before that with Stevie Chalmers when anyone that wore shin guards was considered a bit of a poof and even after that when Danny McGrain didn’t even have a beard and Dixie Deans was regularly knocking in six against a good Hib’s team, he couldn’t score a measly three again the Ibrox money men. Dembele kept his trap shut when not in the first eleven and unlike some Ranger’s regulars, waited for his moment. Here he pounced. Header, left foot, right foot. Early promise is beginning to pay off. He’s in line for a start against Barcelona. And even this early I’d say it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest after two years at Parkhead, you’re looking at Celitc’s first £20 million -plus- transfer. And between him and Leigh Griffiths you’re looking at finishing first and second in the goal-scoring charts. The league is won, even this early, I can say that. We’ve played the best of the rest and scored five against them.

But there’s something in the Old Firm game that brings out the kid in us all. I was thinking about Fat Robbie’s son, who is eight and was at his first Old Firm fixture. That’s probably the first time he’s seen adults who scarcely scratch a smile all week, laughing and greeting, kissing each other and dancing in their seats. Aye, it’s a belter, not to be forgotten, unless you’re a Hun.

Ranger’s supporters will be waiting and hoping that Barcelona take five off our Bhoys because the Catalans are five times better than us. That’s a possibility. A real possibility, we know that because we’ve been there before. Hearts do rule old heads, but there’ll be no shame in it. The phony war against Rangers is over. Talk about Magic Hats and Joey Barton (insert your own version of events here). Celtic have proved themselves. And they need to prove themselves again in the big league, in the Champions League, where the real money is, and there they’ll be found wanting, but they’re the best in Scotland, by a fair distance and deserve to be there.  I think we can safely say that Ibrox will be a  Priest-free zone for quite a while and when Zadok and the Champions League music starts they can turn it over and watch oops Joey in the Cartoon Network.