At around noon yesterday, the news broke that we’d all been waiting for.
Celtic champions, Hearts relegated and Rangers, Motherwell and Aberdeen in Europe as SPFL end Premiership season early
Of course, most people were delighted, thise that matter anyway, and most neutrals would agree it was inevitable that Celtic would win the league, but there were some people who were hurting….
— Andrew Patrick Currie (@andrewbhoy18) May 18, 2020
More to be pitied than scorned.
It’s been a strange season, one that ended not with the usual elation of a winning goal, or a stunning on the field performance, or even a dodgy nervous one for that matter.
This time around, the praise goes to manager Neil Lennon, for his message to the support after the announcement was made….
It is with great pleasure that I am writing to you to thank you for all you have done in bringing home 9 in a row!
Thank you for everything.
The passion, commitment and energy you bring to Celtic always gives us strength and it is these qualities which have been crucial in once again allowing us to deliver when it mattered. You are the best around and once again you, along with my players, my backroom team, indeed everyone at the club… have been the difference.
Together we have shown that we are a powerful force and once again the best team in the country.
It has also been an honour to work with such a special group of players, a squad crammed with talent, spirit, strength and resilience. I love these players – players who do their talking on the pitch and pride themselves in their professionalism. Led by a captain of the highest quality, these players are relentless in achieving their objectives – and they do it all for you, our great supporters.
As manager of this great club it has been an honour to deliver your 9th successive title win. I could not have done this without John Kennedy and Damien Duff and thank both of them for their support.
I returned to Celtic to win. In the tradition of our club I wanted to bring you positive, exciting football, to give you goals, an attacking, dynamic style of play which produced results. As a group we like to think we achieved that already and in this season in particular.
We would have loved to play out the season in front of you, it is what we all wanted. We were desperate to continue the blistering form we were in when the season was suspended. However, do not in any way let this detract from our achievement. While many will seek to challenge us, the title is ours and we deserve it. We are indeed champions for a reason.
Scottish football, like society in general has gone through a tough time in recent months. We have stayed strong as a club, remaining focused, acting professionally and with thought at all times for others.
Of course, life has become very different and while we congratulate each other as supporters and celebrate our achievement, we can’t help but think of those people who continue to experience difficulty.
Many of you will have had families directly affected by this crisis, many of you will be key workers, striving on a daily basis to keep us safe and many of you will have experienced challenges around employment and family life.
So as everyone at the Club rightly celebrates our achievement, we also pay tribute to you all and remember the difficulties which so many people continue to face.
Thank you once again for all your brilliant support.
You will forever be part of 9 in a row.
Love and best wishes to you and your family
It’s a wonderful message, full of warmth and humility, and Lennon deserves praise not only for showing his feelings but for not signing off with “fuck the huns “, as he would no doubt have been tempted to.
Well, I would have been.
It’s not so long since he stepped into the shoes of that bloke who went to Leicester and from that moment on we knew at least we had a man who had Celtic running through his veins, and a heart to make sure it flowed strongly.
He has clearly matured since his first time as boss, and has come back a better man, a better manager and instead of stamping his authority from day one, he has made subtle and effective changes to the way the players go about their business.
Some people are lucky enough to find the job that is made for them, Lennon is one of those fortunate few.
There are still challenging times ahead, but we can feel confident that the right man is at the helm, and we can therefore face them with confidence.
It must also be said that a good manager needs a good captain.
We got lucky there as well.
Scott Brown , who signed thirteen years ago from Hibernian has proved to be one of those who may not have had Celtic as a first love, but we can be assured it will be his last.
Written off on a regular basis by many supporters, his endurance and drive have pushed Celtic to the title in a season where the pressure would have been quite overwhelming at times.
In the mould of Roy Aitken rather than Billy McNeill, he has become of the few Celts who can be described as a legend, and again there is probably still more to come from him.
Yesterday, he spoke to Celtic TV…
“It’s incredible, to be perfectly honest,”
“We obviously wanted to play every single game but, due to the circumstances, we’ve not been able to. I think the league has done the right thing having crowned us champions, because it was only a matter of time anyway.
“We do our talking on the park, and we’ve shown over the last nine seasons with how consistent we’ve been. We wanted to continue that, we wanted to show how dominant we’ve been with the leagues as well.
“I feel for the lads because we’re not able to get the trophy, we’re not able to have Trophy Day with the fans and with our families as well. It’s hard for the lads that way, but I’m sure we’ll get a Zoom call and we’ll all celebrate that way!”
“When we got eight-in-a-row, we were extremely focused to make sure we got the nine. We know how hard we’ve worked over the years. To get eight, and then not get over the line to get nine, that fantastic record, would have been extremely harsh on us, especially with what we’ve done over the years.
“We knew that after December, we had to focus in order to make sure we were on our game every single week and that we pushed each other. We’ve done that since then and we’ve worked extremely hard. For us, these seven weeks have been our recovery. Now, whenever training is ready to go, we’ll be ready to start.
“It’ll be amazing to get everyone back to Celtic Park, to see everyone’s faces, and to see us lift the trophy as well. We can’t wait to get back to winning ways, and we need to make sure that we push and work as hard as we possibly can to get 10, and I’m sure all the fans will be backing us all the way.”
It’s not only nine in a row where titles are concerned, it’s eleven consecutive trophies domestically, a feat which perhaps we are taking for granted, and it will only be in years to come when the contributions of this squad, manager and coaches will be truly appreciated.
Ally McCoist, who led new club “rangers ” through their infant years to eventually become the closest challengers to Celtic, offered his thoughts yesterday as well, which usually don’t amount to much.
This time was no exception as the man now employed, somewhat fittingly, by Talkshite Radio , said;
“As well as offering congratulations to Celtic – you have to have a degree of sympathy as well.
“I’ve gone on record as saying, and I stand by it, if you’re a Celtic player or a Celtic supporter, anyone involved with Celtic, you would have wanted to see the season finished. As did everybody else, because that’s the only fair way to do it.
“It’s through no fault of their own, absolutely through no fault of their own, that the season has finished early and they have been awarded the title in this manner.
“Listen, you have got to say Celtic have been the best team in the league this season by a considerable margin. That’s the facts of the matter.
“They’re 13 points clear, Rangers have got a game in hand. Could Rangers have caught them? Absolutely. Was it likely? No, not at all, and probably highly unlikely that Rangers caught them
“They will have an asterisk next to it, of course they will,”
“Because you’re not going to tell me you’re not going to look back on this season and say they were awarded the title, they were awarded promotion. Of course thy were.
“There is a massive difference between the use of the words ‘asterisk’ and ‘tainted’. The title and the promotions aren’t tainted because it’s through no fault of their own, but you can’t argue there will not be an asterisk.
“The asterisk will say, through no fault of their own, this season has been different.”
“Just like all those seasons were when the original Rangers fielded inelligible players, ” he forgot to add.
Lennon, now wishing he had added “fuck the huns ” to his message, retorted;
“I have no sympathy for Rangers at all,”
“I doubt very much any right-minded person would have envisaged Rangers catching us.
“Not only were we 13 points clear but we were 25 (ahead) in goal difference as well. So you could easily say we were 14 points clear.
“The only sympathy I have is for my own players, that they never got the chance to play out the season. We were also in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup and going for a fourth treble.
“In terms of the league championship, it was only going, in our minds, to one place.
As supporters, we could have had some real, lifelong memories over the last few weeks.
Thats not going to happen now, but what we do have is something to look forward to, perhaps much more than usual, and thats when the trophy is presented, hopefully before a packed stadium lacking in dry eyes as we move into an phase of the clubs history that is uncertain on one hand, with the possibility of irreversible changes brought on by the pandemic, but also safe in the knowledge that those in charge of the club both on and off the field may just have everyone’s best interests at heart.
The board , don’t forget, as it’s not been in the papers to the extent it deserves, have handed out nearly half a million pounds in aid to those who need it.
The players and staff have taken pay cuts to help offset the economic problems at the club caused by the health crisis, not a deferral, but an actual cut.
For most of us, Celtic is the one constant in life.
We move house, we begin and end personal relationships, we move jobs and careers, and friends come and go, sometimes not quickly enough, but they do come and go.
Celtic has been there since day one, whether a short walk away or a long haul flight.
The success of the club is our success as well, and like any long term love affair, there will be disagreements.
But today, and maybe even all through the summer, we can raise a glass to a little piece of history.
Now I know exactly what the temptation for Neil Lennon to sign off “fuck the huns ” feels like…..