When is it Ok for Celtic to lose a league?
There were many themes of anxiety as we faced this crunch year when 9 in a row was on the line again.
We had the hardy perennial worry that the masonic refs were not going to allow us to get to 9 as if they had some kind of sado-masochistic bent that allowed them to thole 1,2, 3 and even 8 in a row but they’d be damned if they were going to tolerate 9. I expect we will be hearing that one again if, as I think, we’ll be aiming at 10 next year.
We even had the paranoid strain re-appear that Dermot Desmond and Peter Lawwell would ensure that we would not make the 9 as it was bad for Old Firm business. They would ensure that we would not spend anything allowing Sevco to close the gap and overtake us as it would be good for the old rivalry that sells tickets. That line of thought, if it can be so glorified, falls on the same grounds as above. Why wait for the 9th title to sabotage your own club if it was being done to promote rivalry, competitiveness and fan interest, allegedly?
And we had Imperiumphobia (made up word BTW), the belief that the ruling classes and establishment would appear to save Sevco from further humiliation. Whether it was a rich Arab who could overlook their pro-Israeli sentiments, the DUP using Theresa’s bribe money, or rich Mike Ashley freed from the shackles of Newcastle returning to be Chief Asshole in Asshole County, the fantasy loomed large that they would not be allowed to lose and we would not be allowed to win.
Whatever the source of the angst, irrational, as above, or more rational, such as believing Stevie G being really good and getting all the best Liverpool reserves, the solution to our expressed angst was always the same- spend big and ensure that Sevco cannot come close.
But instead of top loaded spending to “ensure” good outcomes, we have had 2 transfer windows which mirrored most of our approach post Seville. Some call it Moneyball, though it does not fit the original Baseball use of the term, other call it Risk Averse or Buy cheap/Pay twice. Whatever term you use it has worked for us domestically and for most of the past 2 decades. We deviated from it on 3 occasions that I can remember:-
When MON came and we bought Sutton, Hartson and Lennon for around £6m apiece (they would each be £15 -25 million in the modern market mind you).
Jan 2010 transfer window- where Robbie Keane was bankrolled on loan, as was Diomansy Kamara and Edson Braafheid (WC finalist). We bought Ki Sung-Young, Joe Hooiveld, Morten Rasmussen, and, erm Paul Slane. We obtained Thomas Rogne on a Bosman too. All of this was to help Tony Mowbray win back the league. Up to December we had won 11, drawn 3 and lost 3 (Gers, United and Hearts) and we thought this would win us the league back. All that happened was that, up to the sacking of Mowbray on the 25th March following a 4:0 loss to St. Mirren, we had won 6 matches, drawn 3 and lost 4 (Hibs, Killie, Rangers and St. Mirren) with this “improved spending” squad. Neil came in and saw us finish the league with 7 wins out of 8, losing only to Hibs and beating Rangers in a meaningless match. Rangers, despite that defeat, won that league by 6 points. Our money bought us nothing. In fact a less expensive manager worked better for us.
When Brendan came in the summer of 2016, we had been spooked by the faltering nature of Ronny Deila’s Celtic, who had won their 2 untested titles in a row, but had lost a SC semi to Sevco on pens in the previous April. So we bought Sinclair, Kouassi, Gamboa, De Vries and Ajer. We brought in Kolo Toure and Moussa Dembele on Bosmans. That was 5 players with EPL experience and with associated implications for wages.
If you looked at options 1 and 3 only you may feel vindicated in the STA “speculate to accumulate” model but example 2 did happen too, albeit in a period when Rangers really existed. Taken in total our current 9iar run has been won using the “moneyball” approach in all but Brendan’s first year
So, the mood music this year was worrying. We had seen 2 transfer windows that did not impress the STA aficionados and we had seen Sevco outplay us in 2 matches, even managing to win one of them. The fears finally had a large rational basis. Sevco, who had already briefly led the league could do so again, if they won their game in hand.
The talk was back to pitchforks and protests. Our pikes were being retrieved from that old spot by the river. We were sure, this time, we would be running out of Dodge, the ever popular villains, Dermot Desmond and Peter Lawwell, the guys that were holding us back from our chance to be a big club again and relive Lisbon 1967. And we were planning on sweeping out their puppet manager, Neil Francis Lennon too, because he, too, was denying us our dreams with his simultaneously old-fashioned and volatile ways. Whatever they were doing, it was certainly wrong and the revolt talk had traction at last.
On the legitimate grounds of our Board’s cowardice in 2012 and their tragic inaction and stonewalling on Resolution 12, we could not drum up interest, but we could sure drum up a crowd to protest our failure to spend several million bucks on Steven Fletcher, Jordan Rhodes (we’d be better of with Zandra), Brett Assombalonga or their European counterparts.
It was the surest bet in the world- if Celtic did not make 9 in a row, Neil Lennon would be gone, Peter Lawwell would be chased, and the fans would be asking DD- “How much to buy you out?”.
I am not naive- there would be no expressions of “Thanks a lot for 8iar, Treble Trebles n’at = pity about the 9!”
No, this was tar and feather time and they would be propelling themselves on a Handcar/Kalamazoo out of Central station with a 5 minute start on the Euston Express train
Thankfully, a daily injection of toxic substances by the anti-Zionist cell in their Dubai Hotel saw the Sevco squad return to SPFL action in the kind of form that ensured a heavy fall with injuries for Sevco fans’ hopes, and a gradual but palpable reduction in our crowd’s angst levels from heart attack level to mildly dyspeptic.
We should be spared a return of this affliction for a few months. We might even recover an appetite for celebrating our squad and its victories rather than calling them out as cowards, mercenaries, and empty jerseys as has been our won’t. I live in hope of that anyway.
So, I must pose the question- If we were gonna run them out for losing 9iar, do we have the same view about losing out on 10 iar? Would that also be unforgivable? Would losing out on 10 be treacherous but we’d forgive them for not making 11? Or would 11 become the new entitled benchmark? Would we go on and on threatening our so-called beloved team with retributions for as yet unachieved failures, whilst pausing only momentarily from expressing our dissatisfaction in order to have 1 or 2 end of season days when we allow ourselves to be happy?
Skonto Riga won 14 consecutive Latvian titles. Lincoln Red Imps had the same number in Gibraltar. Rosenborg got 13 in Norway as have Bate in Belarus and Al-Faysali in Jordan. On 11 in a row, we have Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia and 3 teams from Lebanon, Tonga and Tuvalu.
Will we accept a failure to equal Zagreb’s run, Rosenborg’s run or Skonto’s run?
Or will we forever keep our pitchforks sharpened until we by-pass the mighty Tafea FC from Vanuatu, who claim a controversial 15 in a row?
My own answer is, I want the 10 as it is eminently doable. Everything else is in the lap of the gods and, when we do lose a league, as someday we must, let us celebrate the record run rather than bemoan the fact we have just lost.
How about it?
The above guest article is by SFTB. As usual the email is firstname.lastname@example.org for any emails. Have a great weekend.