Well, the fun (if you can call it that) is over, and we’re back in business.
Fresh from defeating Slovenia on Sunday evening and resurrecting Scotland’s World Cup Qualification hopes, Celtic prepare for a return to action this weekend.
And it’s no ordinary weekend ahead.
No, today starts the countdown to the title party and it might even be won tonight.
If not, Celtic will roll into Tynecastle with an opportunity to capture title number 48 and a sixth in a row.
It’s also part 2 of a hoped for treble.
Isn ‘t it funny how this turned out; winning the title either via Dundee or Hearts losing instead.
I don’t think these sides have been so vital to the destiny of the league championship at the same time since that incredible day back in May, 1986 when Albert Kidd wrote his name into Celtic folklore whilst the men in Hoops (or all green that particular day) produced a 5 star display over at Love Street, Paisley.
Anyway, as James has already said, either way will do.
To get here Celtic have rattled off 27 wins in 29 league matches with 2 draws collecting an incredible 83 points from an available 87.
This is part of a 36 game unbeaten domestic run.
76 goals (an average of 2.6 per game) have been rattled in during the league proceedings with only 18 conceded.
Not bad for Brendan Rodgers first season in charge.
Especially considering that virtually the same squad were sitting on 66 points at the 29 game mark last season and it wasn’t until April 30th of that term that the title was wrapped up, again with victory at Tynecastle.
Has it really been 11 months since Efe Ambrose and Login Bailly back flipped whilst Erik Sviatchenko did ‘that dance’ in front of the Roseburn stand?
Unfortunately any title celebrations then were undercut by the bitter taste of an embarrassing Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to a certain club from Govan the previous weekend. Something nonsense about a four year old club ‘going for 55’ was still ringing in most Celtic’s fans ears and at that particular point, I admit, I found it understandable to be more than a tad worried. Because a challenge was coming from somewhere. We were going backwards, or so it seemed.
Any such fears have proven to be unfounded as our Glasgow neighbours sit a mere 33 points below the champions elect; they are already out of the running. Aberdeen will only be staving off the inevitable if they win tonight.
As the now standard off the field governance pantomime rolls on at Ibrox it’s business as usual over at Celtic Park. The business of winning league championships, recording record turnovers and setting a team up for another assault on world club football’s richest competition.
Hopefully the bulk of the first team have recovered from Sunday nights exertions at Hampden.
No doubt the knives were out with 2 mins of regulation time to go amongst both the press and sections of the Tartan Army for Strachan and his decision to logically chose 6 first team players from easily Scotland’s strongest team.
Okay Griffiths has not been a regular this season but show me a striker in the current international squad who has.
He’s still in double figures for the term and has only been kept out by a combination of injury and the incredible form of one of Europe’s most prized young strikers.
That aside Leigh exhibited the complete lack of luck that has plagued his season. A stick on crashed off the bar and a moment of brilliance cannoned off the inside of the post and rolled agonisingly along the goal line. He then fell victim to a completely unnecessary knee to the lower back from Slovenia’s stopper Jan Oblak who I can only imagine has a poster of ex-West Germany keeper Harald Schumacher on his bedroom wall back in Madrid.
Outside of the disappointment for how Griffith’s night went one could only marvel at the displays of Stuart Armstrong making his international debut in the middle and Kieran Tierney playing out of position on the right. Both were superb. Armstrong in particular.
Elsewhere Scott Brown was solid and successfully wound up a Slovenian team who clearly had no intention of playing to win and were time wasting from the moment the first whistle blew. James Forrest was somewhat ineffectual. He often is. Just when you’re about to consign him permanently to the ‘Just doesn’t have it’ file he usually comes up with a moment of magic to make you think twice. Let’s hope he’s saving that for April 23rd.
All in all Strachan was vindicated on Sunday night and his stay of execution will roll onto June 10th when Scotland face England in a do or die qualifier.
If he’s smart and no major injuries have flared up he’ll go with the same team again.
On Sunday the Celtic board will likely be vindicated for pushing the boat out and securing the services of Brendan Rodgers last May.
By June 10th he’ll probably be sunning himself on a beach somewhere whilst the Scotland–England match rages on, on a TV inside a bar in the background. Though no doubt in between bouts of reapplying factor 5 he’ll be plotting another season of invincibility, tumbling records and a fresh glut of trophies.
Along with his pearly whites, deep tan and knowing grin it’s what Scottish football has come to expect after all.
Paul Cassidy is a Celtic fan and blogger, who’s very much looking forward to a title party.