We are now passed midway of the Decade.
We have moved on from discussing Ronnie’s seasons in That was the Decade that Was : A North Wind Blows In
Now we journey forward.
Be prepared, for we now come to the first 2 seasons of a certain charismatic and extremely talented ( sadly there is no denying that fact – Ed) Man.
A man who would arrive at Celtic Park and immediately sweep all of us and the whole of Scottish football off their feet.
A man we would love so much, at least we did before that fateful moment when everything we knew, loved, trusted and believed in our Celtic hearts would be put to the ultimate test….but hey, relax, that will come in the final submission..for now, lets go back and enjoy those 2016-2018 seasons.
With Ronnie out the picture, only 1 question was going around. Who would be the next Manager?
Some suspected Michael O’Neill, some fancied Davie Moyes.
Dermot Desmond had other ideas. With Peters project with Deila over, Dermot dug deep and went and got his man.
On 20 May 2016, 15’000 people turned up at Celtic Park to welcome Brendan Rodgers to Paradise.
To say the fans were overjoyed at such a capture, well just look at the Attendance differences between this and the previous Season under Ronnie Deila.
The former Swansea and Liverpool Manager, smiled and waved and then set about creating a Celtic team of his choosing.
In came a young French forward named Moussa Dembele and before the Hearts game, in came English winger Scott Sinclair. Both would be unbelievable that season with Dembele scoring 32 goals and Sinclair getting 25 including a classic when making his debut at Tynecastle. They two were ably assisted by Stuart Armstrong and leigh griffiths with an impressive 17 and 18 goals respectively.
Everyone loved Sinclairs workrate and execution but Dembele though, that guy was a whirlwind.
Dembele was the perfect modern centre forward. He could take the ball with his back to goal and then easily turn whilst making space. Some doubted one so young could cut it. He answered that with the perfect hat trick in a 5-1 rout of the The Rangers ( 1 of 2 5-1 routs that season).
That was the first of 3 hat tricks for the Frenchman that glorious Invincibles Season.
Other notable arrivals was a young man named Kris Ajer from Norway and the veteran Kolo Toure. Sadly we also got Dorus De Vries, Eboue Kouassi and Cristian Gamboa but nobody is perfect!
It was a mass exodus from Celtic Park as we shipped out lots of kids and some duds mostly in loan deals.
The only notable sales were £1m for Stefan Šćepović to Getafe and £2m for Stefan Johannsen from Fulham, our way of saying thanks for giving us Dembele.
The Transfer deficit that season was almost £5m. Clearly something had changed at Celtic Park.
The friendlies werent that notable bar competing in The International Champions Cup.
At home we had game against a certain team that had recently won the EPL..one Leicester City who would beat us on penalties. We also headed over to Dublin and Limerick to play against Barca and Inter but lost to both.
In Europe, we would shamefull lose a game to Red Imp Painter & Decorators XI in Rodgers first game but progressed on through to beat Astana and then we held on in Israel to go through against Hapoel Be’er Sheva.
In the Group we had decent showings against Pep Gaurdiolas Man City with a memorable Dembele over the shoulder looped goal. Peps still never beat us, which is nice. We would lose at home to Borussia Mönchengladbach and Barcelona but a big warning came when we faced Barcelona away. We got hammered 7-0 and somehow Rodgers thought it was all a learning curve whilst we all held our heads in our hands.
With no European football after Xmas, our joy would have to come domestically.
And how it came..
The first trophy captured would be the League Cup. We would beat Aberdeen 3-0 in the final after Dembele had routed The Rangers with a sweet double nutmeg from a Griffiths low cross. We never lost a goal in the League Cup that season so it was very well deserved.
The League campaign that season needs no words really..look at this
We simply destroyed everyone that season and finished on a wonderful 106 points, a full 30 points clear of Aberdeen in second.
Our goal difference was +81. Utterly unbelievable.
And then came the Scottish Cup Final.
The last game of the season saw an undefeated Celtic side face Aberdeen.
A certain wee guy called Johnny Hayes slipped in for the opener for McInnes men.
Thankfully we hit back through Stuart Armstrong and the game then dragged on in the heavy Glasgow rain.
As we all thought it was looking like extra time, on came Tom Rogic.
The classy Australian took a pass and then strode forward leaving ragged Reds in his wake.
Rogic covered 5 yards, 10 yards, 20 yards and then suddenly he was in the Aberdeen box.
He couldnt could he?…he could..he could and he bloody well did!
Rogic stroked the ball home past the stricken keeper and the fans in the stadium, in the pubs, in the houses and all round the world went berserk.
Just when we thought we had seem the perfect way to end a perfect season…suddenly Kieran Tierney appeared to collect his winners medal, despite having just raced from Hospital after treatment for a severe Jaw Injury suffered during the game!
What sweet memories…We had won The Treble BUT more than that, a Treble and an Invincible season.
A truly once in a lifetime experience that will live with us forever.
With the Invincible Season to emulate, everyone wonders just what would Celtic do in Rodgers second season in charge.
We started with a Friendly gubbing from Lyon…who would come back on the scene soon enough.
Personnel wise, we saw few full signing highlights in truth.
Olivier Ntcham arrived as did Mr 100% Johnny Hayes and Lewis Morgan but we also bought Jack Hendry and Mark “Call me Derk” Comperr and Kundi Benyu..never to be seen again.
On loan however, we brought in Scott Bain, Neil McCanns keeper Nemesis who would shine on his surprise debut at Ibrox and also a certain young French forward named Odsonne Édouard who would shine at the same ground.
As well as they 2, we brought in the so called glamour of bringing in the Belgian starlet named Charly Musonda..I wonder where he is now?
Heading out the door were old stalwarts, Izzy, Kris Commons, Sviatchenko and Efe Ambrose as well as folk like GMS and Scott Allan giving up on any chance of a Celtic based future. Notably heading out on loan was that young guy from Caley. Ryan Christie headed to Aberdeen needing game time and in time, we would all appreciate his time with the Dons.
Weirdly, we don’t seem to have sold anyone for cash that summer, or paid for anyone coming in.
Had Peter forgotten our bank details?
As for the games…we would qualify for the Champions League by having to endure a tie against Linfield.
At the away game, Griff got booked for lifting up a bottle that had been thrown at him by the crowd. We then impressively beat Rosenborg away and then hammered Astana 5-0 at home to move into the Group stage despite a 4-3 defeat in Kazakhstan.
Sadly when attempting to swim in the big boys pool, we got our arse handed to us on a plate.
It was no surprise to get beat by Bayern and more so by PSG but at times it was shambolic .
PSG were one of the most impressive sides Ive seen in the flesh at Celtic Park but in truth, Rodgers obsession with pass and possession football simply let the Opposition quality players play their own game. Oh how we watched through our hands as they scored at will in Glasgow and in Paris.
Amazingly, thanks to Anderlecht losing their manager early doors, we secured 3 points away and captured 3rd spot despite the Belgians beating us 1-0 at Celtic Park in the last Group stage game.
3rd place earned us a Europa play-off versus Zenit who won 3-0 easily enough over there after we had won 1-0 at home.
Back home, we would see a new unbeaten record, reaching 69 games before we went flat against Hearts at Tynecastle. It was an incredible run that had to end at some point, sadly it was against the wee Huns and Mr “its a laugh isnt it” Levein.
Trophy wise, we secured the League Cup with a November final win against Motherwell.
The Scottish Cup would be secured with another 2-0 win against Motherwell and was notable for the semi final 4-0 defeat of The Rangers. A game where we were so much in Easy street that we allowed Olivier Ntcham to take a penalty ( and score) just for a laugh. Dembele also would score a lovely panenka style chipped penalty just to help wind up the blue horde.
The team and fans would enjoy a wonderful Open Top Bus ride from Dalmarnock to Celtic Park in the lovely sunshine!
In the league, it wss all straightforward enough. We were winning when it mattered and the highlight for many was the 3-2 game at Ibrox. Scott Bain made some great saves and Rogic and Dembele scored 2 crackers to level the scoring. Rogic was a beautiful gather and 20 yard curler into the top corner whilst Dembeles was the classic “Whats the keeper daein Tom” goal after Broony still managed a classic throu pass whilst getting clattered in his own half.
The best though was when we went down to 10 men.
Jozo “elbowed” Morelos and was “RED CARD!RED CARD!” sent off ( our only dismissal that season!) and we looked to be hanging on.
Then on came Edouard and he and Dembele soon teamed up to allow Eddy to have possession out on the left hand side of the Rangers box. Eddy cooly and calmly, beat his man and strode inside to curl the ball home passed Fotheringham to secure the away win.
The The Rangers were so shaken by that game, we would go on to easily gub them 5-0 before the season ended.
Interestingly in that Season, goals distribution started to change:
Suddenly, our midfielders were wearing shooting boots.
James Forrest became a new threat and scored 17, just one behind Scotty Sinclair. Callum MacGregor found his range, scoring 12 times that season and Olivier N’tcham got 9 and Tom Rogic bagged 8.
These goals from midfield were very welcome as up front we werent exactly firing.
Moussa Dembele only scored 16, Griff got 13 and Edouard bedded in and scored 11
And that was that …an amazing Double Treble was secured. 6 trophies had been won under Rodgers!
Just what would happen in his 3rd season?
We had no idea..did we?
Look out for Dreams and Decades End coming Jan 3rd 2020