SIX down, four to go, as Celtic’s purist of a historic 10 consecutive Scottish league titles marches on. Celtic continued to show their domestic dominance after claiming their sixth successive League title with a 5-0 win over Hearts.
The season hasn’t always been plain sailing for the Hoops and they became a laughing stock when they lost the first leg of a Champions league qualifier to Lincoln Red Imps, a team from Gibraltar that consisted of just five professional footballers.
This is the one blip in what has been an extraordinary season for Celtic and they are deserving champions.
Following last season’s victory over Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final, many people expected Rangers to mount a serious challenge for the league title this season but The Gers have been a disappointment in their maiden season back in the top tier of Scottish football.
Celtic have won the league with eight games to spare, which many wouldn’t have predicted after last season’s semi-final.
That defeat to Rangers was probably a blessing in disguise because it would have struck fear into the Celtic board that Rangers could pose a threat to Celtic in the league. It forced the board to take action and ultimately signalled the end of Ronny Deila’s time as Celtic manager. Celtic fans were sceptical of Delia’s appointment and not many were disappointed to see him leave especially when they heard the news of who would replace the Norwegian.
From the moment, Brendan Rodgers arrived at Celtic he has brought an excitement back to the club that it had been sadly lack for the past number of years. Season tickets rose from 41,000 to 52,000 and just over 13,000 supporters turned up to the unveiling of Rodgers as manager at Celtic Park. Delia may have struggled to get 130 supporters to turn up to the local supermarket if he were to make an appearance.
The shrewd signings of Scott Sinclair and Moussa Dembele have brought the team to the next level and they are the type of players that the club were unable to attract during Delia’s time in charge.
Sinclair has been one of the players of the season this year and at 28 in is in the prime of his career. Over the past few seasons his career has stalled but Rodgers was able to get Sinclair to produce his best form during their Swansea days together and he has managed to get the English winger to replicate those performances again this season. Sinclair has played for clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City, with the latter paying around £8 million for the player and this is the type of player Celtic should be able to attract.
Some may have questioned the signing of Dembele, because after all, Celtic had a player in Leigh Griffiths who scored 40 goals for the club last season. The French man has 32 goals for Celtic this season including a hat-trick against Rangers which would have won supporters over straight away. When we played Celtic at the start of the season, Dembele was only a substitute and appeared sluggish and as if he might struggle to dislodge Griffiths from the side.
The former Fulham striker took full advantage of his opportunity when Griffiths was injured for the first Old-Firm of the season and hasn’t looked back since. It is inevitable that he will leave Celtic in the future with clubs such as Chelsea and Real Madrid linked with the player. Considering Dembele only cost Celtic half a million, they stand to make a hefty profit on the player.
Another problem that Celtic may face in the future and probably more significant than Dembele is trying to keep hold of Rodgers. The 44-year-old only added two main additions to the Celtic starting eleven this season and the team have improved so much compare to last year.
The improvements in players such as Stuart Armstrong, James Forrest and Dedryck Boyata is testament to Rodgers’ management ability. Following his sacking as Liverpool manager, Rodgers reputation took a bit of a hit but the way he has reinvented Celtic will surely have his stock as a manager back on the rise.
The way he conducts himself and the respect he gives everyone in the Scottish league is a credit to the manager. He’s first on the pitch to shake hands of the opposition players and from what I have witnessed of him from playing against Celtic, I can see why he is a top manager.
Rodgers may feel that he has achieved all in can with Celtic and if he were approached to take a job back in England or even in one of the top European leagues then the Northern Irishman surely will be tempted.
So, what next for Celtic? They will want to win the Scottish Cup and complete their first domestic treble in 16 years. Celtics biggest achievement this season was the return to the Champions League group stages. The Hoops are expected to dominate domestically but over the past few years they have been a disappointment in Europe.
The need to make sure that they are a permeant fixture in the Champions League group stages and then start thinking about qualifying from the group over the next two years. As I wrote earlier, completing the historic 10 in a row league titles, is what everyone associated with the club will want.