Last night, we moved into a thirteen-point lead at the top of the SPL.
The league flag will be flying over Celtic Park next season.
We still need six wins to make sure of this, but as I wrote earlier in the week the steady drum-beat in the background is of talk of playing games behind closed doors and, today, for the first time in public – although it’s been going on in private for a week – talk that the league season may not be completed.
It was Neil Doncaster, of course, who spoke the words that I dreaded hearing but have expected to hear for a few days. It might be “difficult” to complete the season. There are ten games left, but I’ll be honest; time is not on our side here.
The UK government just moved us to the “delay” phase of this thing, and the Scottish government will soon follow suit.
It’s moving fast, too fast for us to be sure that this campaign isn’t going to be disrupted.
Playing games behind closed doors is now a virtual certainty, but we have two trophies to win here and at least one of them – the Scottish Cup – has to be in doubt at the moment. If we get to the final and there are actually fans at it, I’ll be amazed.
That would take something wholly unexpected at this stage.
I am not ruling it out, because SARS mutated into a form that didn’t spread quite as easily – that almost certainly prevented that virus going on a rampage with a truly horrific global death toll – and this might too, or it might well be that this thing has been circulating in the general population for months and that symptoms in most cases are so minor that the fatality rate is much lower than the WHO’s dire estimated of 3.4% from the other day. Anything is possible here.
But at the top of it all is a chance that this season will not be completed.
If Celtic gets over the line and are crowned champions, I don’t see how they can take the title away from us. If we’re not over the line and the hammer comes down then, purely and simply, Celtic has to fight the SPL and the SFA all the way if they try to deny us the flag.
We are the SPL champions for 2019-20.
There is not a person in this country who does not know that full well. Sevco is collapsing in instalments and even if they weren’t, our form is far too good to throw this away. This weekend’s games will certainly go ahead, and if we win we’ve got nine to go. With a lead between ten and thirteen points.
To put it another way, we’d probably need to lose exactly half of our remaining games. And that is not going to happen and everyone knows that full well. Other countries are going to have to grapple with a similar decision; in England, Liverpool, without a title in decades, are so far ahead that nobody realistically believes they won’t be champions … we’re the same.
The Scottish government has played down the risk of contracting this thing at a football stadium; I think that’s a grossly optimistic view, myself, but it could be that they’ve got new information that shows this thing is hard to catch by the aerosol route, at least in an open air environment as opposed to somewhere more enclosed.
I think we could have the title wrapped up by the split.
That looks possible because of the total collapse at Ibrox.
Look, I take this stuff seriously. If there’s a danger to the public health, then of course football matches should be played behind closed doors. If there’s a danger to the players, then of course the season should be suspended or brought to a temporary halt.
But football is a meritocracy, and we’ve done enough to be virtually certain of the title.
I understand the argument about clubs fighting in the relegation zone, or those battling for Europe. It’s tough for those teams who might have found a way back into the race, or who may have done enough to survive, if they are penalised by a policy of “as you were” being taken into the next campaign, but it’s surely ridiculous to suggest that those clubs who have done enough to secure Europe or win leagues will be told “not this year”.
With so much at stake for our own club it’s just untenable. And there are considerations beyond the here and now; how is UEFA supposed to allocate places in its key competitions if domestic leagues are left without winners or even qualifying positions?
Celtic will be crowned champions at the end of this campaign, and they must be whenever that comes or however it manifests itself. It’s as simple as that.