The Graham Cummins column: Celtic will struggle to hold off Rangers this season

The Graham Cummins column: Celtic will struggle to hold off Rangers this season

Celtic manager Neil Lennon arrives for the Scottish Premiership match. Picture: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire. 

TEN in a row.

That sentence means so much to the supporters of Celtic and Rangers.

To create history and become the first Scottish club to win 10 successive league titles.

Both Celtic and Rangers have failed in their sole attempt at the double-digit dominance.

After winning the previous nine league titles, the Hoops have another shot at being the greatest but unless something changes, I envision Rangers halting Celtic’s quest for a historic 10 in-a-row.

Rangers sit top of the table, six points ahead of their Glasgow rivals, albeit having played two more matches but Steven Gerrard’s team seem better equipped than Celtic to win the league.

This is Gerrard’s third season in charge of the Gers and he should have a much better idea of what it will take to win the title.

Under Gerrard, Rangers have struggled to find form in the latter part of the season but the former Liverpool captain will have learned lessons from Rangers’ previous demises and I’m sure, he will have a structure in place that ensures his team don’t fade away at the end of the season.

Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire. 
Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire. 

Celtic’s exit in Europe and in particular, comments made by Lennon after the game about “players who may want to leave the club,” suggests that there are problems at the club.

Their defeat to Ferencvaros was nothing short of embarrassing and could cost the club more than the €34m they have missed out on for failing to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League.

It’s also put the Hoops at risk, of having to sell their top players to make up for the loss of revenue and also because their best players don’t want to just play in the Scottish league.

One of the main attractions for foreign players signing for Celtic is that they know they have a chance of playing in the Champions League.

Players like, Odsonne Edouard Christopher Jullien don’t sign for the Scottish Champions because they want to be playing against teams like Motherwell or Hamilton.

They want to be playing in Europe’s elite competition or if not the Champions League then at least the Europa League but the way things are at the moment, Celtic will struggle to make the group stages of that competition.

The English Premier League is where players want to play.

Celtic don’t compete with clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool or even clubs like Aston Villa for players because there is no contest which club a player would sign for.

They compete with Championship clubs. Players use the Hoops as a stepping stone to get their move to the Premier League but it’s much more difficult for those players to get that move if they are being judged in Scottish league fixtures rather than European because of the level of Scottish football.

Edouard is the best player in Scottish football.

It would have been difficult for the Hoops to keep hold of the player had they progress in Europe.

I just don’t see any reason why he would choose to stay with the Hoops if the opportunity arose for the player to move to an English Premier League club.

Of course, Rangers have their issues with Alfredo Morelos, with the Columbian determined to leave Ibrox. Morelos is a good player and it would be difficult to find a player to replace him that could replicate the number of goals he scores.

However, he does tend to leave the Gers down when it matters most and replacing Edouard would be much more difficult for Celtic than it would for Rangers to replace Morelos.

Celtic are a weaker squad than previous campaigns. Not being able to keep hold of Fraser Forster was a significant loss for the Hoops.

The goalkeeper was one of the standout performers for the champions last season and although it is early days, I don’t believe Vasilios Barkas is the right man to replace him. Barkas will cost Celtic at a crucial moment this season.

Celtic are under huge pressure. Failing to win the title this season and missing out on 10 in-a-row could have a huge impact on Scottish football.

No longer would players be wanting to choose Celtic over Rangers. Players would want to sign for Rangers because they would be the champions and they would have the legendary manager that players would want to play for.

If Rangers can halt Celtic’s ten in-a-row bid, they could dominate Scottish football for years to come.

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