So Celtic are finally 90 minutes from securing their second SPL title in a row Saturday - IF Motherwell lose to St Mirren at Fir Park.
While the history books will show Celtic Football Club SPL Champions 2012-13, it won’t record the fact that this season has been hit and miss, up and down. In my opinion, domestically, they have been poor and never really hitting second or third gear at times in matches -- yet they will still canter to the title. But that is no fault of Celtic's nor the other clubs in the SPL.
And it is mirrored in the top leagues across Europe with their respective league leaders miles ahead of the competition -- yet only in Scotland do we denigrate and belittle our game.
-- Twin incentive for Celtic
Out of the four senior divisions, two have already been won. The first team to lift their respective league title was Queen of the South and what style they showed to secure it as they demolished Brechin City 6-0. Next were Celtic's bitter rivals Rangers, who, despite drawing 0-0 against Montrose and their fans booing the team off the pitch at full time -- were announced as league champions at 5 p.m. when Queens Park lost 1-0 to Elgin City.
The First Division is in my opinion, the best league in Scotland for competitive football and for action on the park -- both Morton and Partick Thistle still battling it out for that coveted top spot, which will see them promoted to the SPL and the limited resources that our top tier provides to teams.
And so Saturday it could be Celtic's turn to secure their league's championship, if they can beat Hibernian and if League Cup winners St Mirren can win at Fir Park -- some big ifs at that.
This season, amazingly, Celtic have failed to beat Hibernian. The first game was way back on Sept. 1, just days after Celtic beat Helsingborgs 2-0 to secure their place in the coveted group stage of the Champions League. At Celtic Park, Celtic dropped two points as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Pat Fenlon’s side.
The next match saw Celtic lose 1-0 to Hibs at Easter Road Dec. 29, thanks to a goal from Leigh Griffiths.
With Celtic drawing 1-1 at St Mirren last week, thanks in part to an abysmal refereeing performance by Bobby Madden, Goncalves diving to win a penalty -- even though it was outside the box -- and an inept performance from Neil Lennon's side, it is safe to say that Celtic's players will be expected to pull their finger out before their semifinal Scottish Cup clash with Dundee United April 14.
If they don't, then do they really deserve a place in the Celtic team or even the squad for that cup clash?
On paper, Celtic should do the business against Hibs, but as I mentioned earlier, this season has shown that not to be the case. With Hibernian in ninth place, putting them in the bottom six, they are 26 points behind league leaders and champions-elect Celtic.
Meanwhile, Celtic are 13 points clear of second-placed Motherwell. Yet they have been far from dominant.
Hibernian also have a Scottish Cup semifinal to prepare for next weekend against Falkirk, who appointed Gary Holt as their manager this week -- it will be Holt's first game in charge, coincidentally -- so will they rest any of their players? Doubtful. They are still chasing a top-six finish, although results have to go their way also for that to happen.
With two defeats in a row against Motherwell (4-1) and Inverness Caley Thistle (2-1), Fenlon’s side will be looking to return to winning ways to strengthen their claim on a top-six finish, if results go their way.
Celtic could be boosted by the welcome return of Kris Commons, who returned to training on Thursday after being stretchered off in the draw against St Mirren. But doubts remain over Mikael Lustig, while Adam Matthews, Scott Brown, Lassad and James Forrest will not play any part at all.
Meanwhile, Hibernian have a full squad to choose from. Paul Hanlon has returned from injury and Alan Maybury is back from his ban. Jorge Claros missed last weekend’s defeat to Inverness Caley Thistle, as he was on World Cup duty with Honduras, and Fenlon has a choice whether to play Eoin Doyle, who rejected the club’s offer of a new contract to sign a pre-contract with English League Two outfit Chesterfield.
IF both teams play at their best then it should be an exciting match. Despite factors away from the game at Celtic Park, playing their part in what happens to the clubs, neither will worry about that until the final whistle.
IF Hibs get the results they need, they will certainly celebrate and rub it in just a wee bit to the home support. But for Celtic, if the results go their way and it sees them secure the league championship Saturday, against a club that Celtic founder Brother Walfrid took inspiration from 125 years ago, then it would be added poignancy for the Parkhead side.
Here is hoping that St Mirren can do the business at Fir Park and that Celtic do the business at Parkhead.