Ask any Celtic supporter about their memories of the title run in of season 07/08 and most will reminisce with a smile on their face.
A year in which despite being 8pts behind having played a game more, Gordon Strachan’s team rose like a phoenix from the ashes, won all their remaining fixtures, two of which came against a Rangers side chasing a Quadruple, culminating in an emotional night at Tannadice when Jan Venegoor of Hesselink rose above everyone else in the box to head home a Paul Hartley corner and clinch our 3rd successive League Championship. It was the first time a Celtic side had achieved such a feat since the days of Jock Stein.
For many it is one of the most dramatic title triumphs in our long, illustrious history, right up there with stopping the 10 or the miracle at Love St. in 86. It was, quite simply, “Tommy’s Title”
And yet, despite the happy memories, what many will opt to exclude from their minds is how such odds seemed so insurmountable in the first place. And that was because for most of that campaign, the only thing worse than many of the results were the performances.
From our opening day stalemate at home to Kilmarnock right up until that nervy 1-0 win on the final night, our play was slow, pedestrian, predictable and left us with a seemingly impossible task with just 7 games left. Even that much lauded 7 game winning streak was nerve wracking with all but 2 of the fixtures being settled by a single goal.
But when the final whistle blew on that Thursday night in Dundee all that mattered in the end was that Celtic had achieved the seemingly impossible. We had won the League.
But we had won in a way that is not usually associated with Celtic triumphs. We had won it ugly.
This was not a year in which teams were blown away with ease or supporters arrived at the ground knowing a win was guaranteed and the only question was how many it would be that day.
Every win was a battle, and because of the circumstances, the famous “Celtic Way” had to be temporarily shelved for the greater good. I see a lot of similarities between that campaign and the current one unfolding in front of our eyes.
Aside from the 2 dropped points at Aberdeen last weekend, Celtic have won 5 games out of the last 6 however nobody would argue that aside from Bernardo and Kyogo’s stunning strikes against Rangers that there was much to remember about any of them.
Our latest outing at Easter Rd was not any better. And yet despite that we came away with the required victory. And I reckon that whether we like it or not, that there will be more performances like Wednesdays to come before the season ends.
This is going to be a season where a committed challenge like Anthony Ralston’s in the 90th minute will mean more than what a jinking Jota run did last year. This is not going to be pretty; this is going to be the ugliest of dog fights against our rivals who, despite not being great themselves, are also more than capable of putting a run of results together due to the dire quality of the other teams both sides are currently facing.
Everyone accepts we are in a tough spot right now, much of it our own doing due to poor summer recruitment and the fact that Brendan has not been able to secure the type of players he wants to play his preferred way. Add in an unprecedented injury crisis and its little wonder it has not been plain sailing this year. Take the most dominant centre half or creative midfielder or hardest working winger out of any top side and you will see a marked difference.
And yet, despite all that we are still the league leaders. We are still on top. And when our Captain lifts that Championship trophy aloft in the May sunshine, an indifferent period in the Winter will fade into obscurity. Because winning ugly is still winning.
Anthony is a regular contributor on the Endless Celts podcast. Listen live via YouTube 8.30pm Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. Available to listen back on all the major outlets.