12 months ago, it was still possible – only just possible – for the club from Ibrox to kid itself and its fans that this version of Celtic might be temporary. They feared that we were heading for the title, having recently leapfrogged them in the league, but they had convinced themselves that we had not won it as much as that they had thrown it away.
When we destroyed them at Celtic Park earlier this season I think a lot of things started to click into place. But even when we assumed a nine point lead I think there were some of them who still did not believe that it represented our superiority.
It wasn’t until Hampden, and the League Cup Final result, which hit them like a tsunami, that the penny finally dropped for many of them. And it was not until this result yesterday that their forums began to talk, with weary acceptance, of preferring to face this team in the semi-final rather than get to cup final day and watch as we won the treble.
This no longer seems like surrender talk for many of them, merely an acknowledgement that right now, at this minute, that we might be just too good. There are larger implications here, but I won’t go into them in this piece; they’re for later.
But it’s starting to dawn on them they are going to need to assemble a team quickly over the summer and that this team will need to be damned good, because our form is exceptional. Even accounting for the Invincible Treble season no-one can remember seeing a Celtic team this strong, this relentless, this driven and ruthless.
I’ll talk about those larger implications in an article later on today, but even in the here and now it is impossible for them to deny that we have something special going on here, with an incredibly talented team full of players of daring and brilliance.
They do not like it. Some of them continue to tell themselves that this Celtic side is not as great as is being made out, but even they are willing to admit – because what other choice do they have? – that this team is far better than their own.
They are stunned at the way Ange has transformed us in a very short time, so short a time that some of them feel a little whiplashed. With his comments last week, the one hope they had – that he might not be around next season – was snatched away.
They might have moronic fan reps and “investors” feeding them a lot of bull about how we bought our way here, but even if that’s true many of them accept that our transfer business has been stellar and they can see a summer of uncertainty at their club which doesn’t exist at ours. Even if we lost a couple of key players, they know those players would go for big bucks and they’ve watched Alastair Johnston enough to know we’d bring more quality in.
So they know that next season won’t be easy for them no matter what they’re able to do. Because what they see when they look across at Celtic now is something that runs like a well-oiled machine. A Celtic that never stops.