The Green Eyed Monster
Celtic’s 9th successive title win this season was unlike any other we have experienced. The Covid 19 pandemic meant that the common sense measure of halting the campaign on 30 games came into effect. Much as we wanted the season completed on the pitch and our day with the trophy, there was little chance of any football being played between now and the late summer and the SPFL took the right course of action. Celtic finished on 80 points from 30 games; that is to say they only dropped 10 points during the entire campaign. A few misguided or just plain mean-spirited folk harped on about the fact that Celtic could still be caught. Are we seriously being asked to consider that Celtic would drop a minimum of 14 points in 8 SPFL games when they have only dropped 10 in the previous 30? Their domestic form in 2020 is 13 wins and 1 draw with zero defeats. Their main rivals who were throwing away points like confetti at a wedding during the same period would have needed to win all their games. Get real.
With football in abeyance until the pandemic is under control, France and Belgium declared teams with runaway leads to be Champions. The final standings were based on average points gained per matches played. PSG had a 12 point lead at the time the league was called and Club Bruges was 10 points ahead in Belgium. Only in Holland where AZ Alkmaar and Ajax were on the same points 25 games in did they not declare a champion.
The printed media enjoy stirring up a fuss as it gets more clicks on their advert strewn websites and have wheeled out a former Rangers player every other day to warble on about asterisks and tainted titles. The breath-taking brass neck of some of these EBT recipients is quite something. Alex Rae (EBT £569,000) suggested there would always be an asterisk against this year’s title as did Alan Hutton (EBT £364,000) while Barry Ferguson (EBT £2.5m) said recently…
I still believe strongly that the season cannot be declared null and void but I also feel that titles have to be won fair and square on the pitch. I realise Celtic fans will be up in arms at the suggestion and they’ll say I’m just looking at this through blue-tinted specs.’
His comment about ‘titles being won fair and square’ on the pitch hardly holds up to scrutiny when most of his medals were won with teams packed with players being paid under the table. All monies earned for playing football should be declared to the SFA. The Supreme Court stated quite clearly that the tens of millions paid out to Rangers players in the EBT years were earning and therefore taxable. The hiding of side letters from the SFA was another element in this scandal. What grates is that the same Rangers fans who defend their players and club on this issue would argue the complete opposite had Celtic been caught cheating on this scale. Objectivity is seldom part of their make-up.
One Rangers fans site even held a poll about whether their club should take legal action against the SPFL for calling the league. 85% said they should despite the fact UEFA, who frown on such things, might well throw Scottish clubs out of Europe if they did. The site’s author rather gave the game away by stating in rather strangulated prose, ‘Rangers should go down the legal route even if it means implications for our own Europa League participation, as long as Celtic lose out on the Champions League.’ These small minded folk are quite willing to inflict more chaos and cost onto Scottish football at a time some clubs are struggling to survive as long as it hurts Celtic.
Thus we see similar begrudgers trying everything in their power to tarnish Celtic’s title win with only a few Rangers fans having the integrity to say publically what most probably think; ‘you know what, we were never catching them in a million years.’
Celtic’s dominance of Scottish football is hard to take for some and the myth of the ‘journey’ back to their ‘rightful’ place at the top of Scottish football which was sold to them during their time in the lower leagues is proving very difficult to make reality. They arrived in the Premiership in 2016 with boasts of ‘going for 55’ and ‘coming for you’ and then proceeded to watch Celtic win every single trophy since then. Success isn’t guaranteed in football and the current Rangers are learning the hard truth of trying to live within your means.
This week’s league win marked Celtic’s eleventh successive piece of silverware and the club is still involved in the last 4 of the Scottish cup which will be completed sometime this year with luck. There has never been domination of Scottish football to this degree by one club. Struth’s Rangers of the 1920s and 30s racked up the trophies as did Stein’s Celtic in the 1960s and 70s but three successive trebles is new territory altogether. Indeed Celtic has potentially two more cup ties to make if four!
The multi layered nature of the rivalry of Glasgow’s two biggest clubs means there is seldom any magnanimity or generosity of spirit between them. Those with no love of Celtic would argue white was black rather than accept Celtic is the best team in the land. William Shakespeare understood this facet of human nature well and in his play ‘The Merchant of Venice’ Shylock, the money lending Jew is despised for his identity and mistreated by some of the other main characters states at one point…
‘He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated my enemies – and what's his reason? I am a Jew.’
There remain people today who laugh at Celtic’s loses, mock their gains and scorn the nation which bore this club. That may never change for some and Celtic supporters can expect few plaudits from them for any achievement, not that they look for them. Having endured the barren struggles of the 1990’s many Celtic supporters know too well the pain of being also-rans. They also remember the mocking, the goading and the triumphalism they endured in those years before Fergus McCann helped them lay the firm foundations of the club’s current success. There are those who dislike Peter Lawwell but any objective scrutiny of Celtic’s accounts will show the club has been well run under his tenure.
These are difficult times for Rangers and their supporters. There is no bottomless pit of money to bring in top players as there seemed to be in the 1990’s. How far they have fallen since David Murray’s hubris lead them to a vainglorious assault on the Champions League funded by his banker friends who let them run up unsustainable debts. A spineless board went along with a suicidal tax dodging scheme and a passive Scottish sporting media, with a few honourable exceptions, barely raised a warning.
Next season will prove seminal for both Glasgow clubs. For Celtic, the tantalising prospect of an unheralded tenth successive championship is the Holy Grail. For Rangers it is one last chance to stop Celtic’s dream and perhaps save their young manager’s Ibrox career. For their fans season 2020-21 will mark a renaissance or a nightmare they could never have envisaged in the Murray years. If Celtic does go on to make it ten in a row perhaps they’d best heed some other words of Shakespeare when he said…
“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”