Rangers bullied us at Hampden, and our dreams of the treble ended. Probably our best wins this season have been against our rivals. The emphatic win at Parkhead earlier in the season, and after going a goal behind, the satisfaction of picking them apart and quieting Ibrox. We didn’t play well, but still managed a draw that keeps up in line for the double and the glory of the Champions League. I missed it, even when we were getting hammered. It also puts £40 million between the two Glasgow teams. 29 league matches unbeaten, but it was close here.
Fashion Sakala having equalised, ironically, on 67 minutes, and he was through on goal with only Joe Hart to beat in the last few minutes—he hit the post.
At home we usually dominate possession. Here it was around fifty-fifty. Rangers did what they did at Hampden, pushed up, scrapped for loose balls and sometimes went long. Near the end of the game, they had four corners in succession. Rangers player was first to every ball. Joe Hart having to look smartish to save from Scott Arfield, Sakala (not the biggest) heading a ball against the bar and also heading over the bar. Not good enough, but we got away with it.
Jota’s goal in the twenty-first minute was almost identical to Ryan Kent’s miss in the opening five minutes. Daizen Maeda whipped in a cross and Jota got in front of Borna Barisic and steered the ball in with his thigh. Kent’s effort went past the post.
Maeda had a chance to put us 2—0 up before half-time. In front of goal his header brought about an instinctive save from McGregor. Our Japanese trio weren’t at their best. Celtic weren’t at their best. Early in the season headlines were about Postecoglou needing to work a miracle to deny Rangers another title. The miracle is here. We just need to wait a bit longer. And invest in players with the money we have coming in.
Celtic play a double-header, home and away, against Livingston. Must-win games. Jim Leishman reminded us that the last time Livingston won at Parkhead some of his player were on £175 a week. Celtic’s stand-in captain, Calum McGregor comes out with the usual stuff about, ‘Don’t stop believing’. Does anyone believe this stuff?
The league is gone. Ten-in-a-row gone. Even the dog’s chance we had of winning went when we lost at Ibrox. The Scottish Cup is our only chance of silverware this season. We’ve gone from a team whose fans used to (ironically) cheer when a Rangers’ player got a touch of a ball, or laugh when their so called thirty-million-pound frontman, Alfredo Morelos, missed another sitter—to the team that has went backwards and blew it.
Rangers have come back from the dead. Media savvy men told them not to focus on preventing ten in a row, which reflected back on Celtic’s accomplishments, but to shift the focus on #going-for-55. That’s why we hear that drumbeat now.
When Neil Lennon had his first spell in charge, Charlie Adams, who was shipped off to Blackpool because Rangers thought he was a dud (and they might have been right) was asked about Celtic’s achievements. His reply was they should have won more trebles stuck with me. It wasn’t often I agreed with Charlie Adams. But after four quadruple trebles, the answer now speaks for itself.
And it’s not often I agree with Ally McCoist. Super Ally in a spat with a pundit that Nir Bitton shouldn’t have had a red card and that Morelos wouldn’t have scored—give his track record against Celtic in the previous fourteen Old Firm games. But Ally’s one-liner killed the argument; he’s never played against Barkas. The Celtic keeper may not turn out to be a dud, but to me he looks like the scouting system plucked him from the same money-tree as Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo
Celtic are in a classic destructive cycle in which everything the club, directors and players do goes wrong. Rangers are in a virtuous cycle. Both won’t last.
I don’t look with envy at the Ibrox players. We can play the usual game of who would you take from their team? Their goalie, obviously, but after that nobody springs to mind. But our Celtic team has regressed, while their team has gotten better. In the game at Ibrox, we played them off the park in the way they did to us at Hampden when we won the League Cup, the difference that day was we had a goalkeeper that made saves in Fraser Forster.
If the league was called now, as it was called last year, Rangers would be champions. I don’t like it, but I’d accept that. We blew it.
The question now is when Lennon should go? There was a case for sacking him at the beginning of December, but bringing in a new manager would symbolically suggest we were in deep trouble. The Celtic support pay Peter Lawwell well over a million quid a year to act as Dermot Desmond’s go to ‘Yes man’. Lennon was their man. Lawwell is a politician and politicians don’t like to admit they make mistakes. We don’t get a vote on this. The biscuit tin mentality referred to a time when Celtic directors like the White’s quietly dipped into the profits of the first nine-in-a-row team to pay for their lifestyle. We didn’t get a vote then either. Nine flags that flew over the old main stand weren’t there the following season.
Dermot Desmond is part of the Irish mafia that cashed in his chips at the right time at Manchester United, took his profit and invested in Celtic. It’s his club. Lawwell is his man. Lennon is their manager. But he won’t be here next season. Many of our player will also be sold or out of contract. I’d sell Edouard now, cash in. Other players that are looking to leave should be shown the door, such as Ajer and Ntcham.
Roughly, seventy-percent of our income is based on supporters turning up on match days. Around ninety-percent of Rangers’ income. As league champions next year their players will demand to be paid more. They’ll be sucked into the same downward spiral as Celtic, paying an increasingly high wage bill, with a largely fixed income stream. We all know about their massive debts and hush-hush loans that need to be paid back. But as of now, they are a going concern, and we should be concerned. Champions’ League cash of around £30 million if they qualify for the groups stages puts them on par with us. That’s the golden ticket that’s eluded us the last few years. Indication of our decline, the Dermott Desmond’s of this world chose to ignore. Football is a hard business, Lennon should go now. It would make the transition to one-in-row easier. The only consolation is when Rangers do win it, they’ll be screaming into a void. With lockdown, like our quadruple winning team, we’ll quickly move on to something else. Let’s hope we do have a plan for next year. Celtic are literally taking money from fans for next to nothing and promises of change. That’s a business model that is sure to fail.