Put the champagne on ice

Posted by Andy Muirhead

AP Photo/Press AssociationCeltic's 3-0 win over Hibernian on Saturday puts them on the cusp of another SPL title.

Put the champagne on ice, call the caterers and don't cook the sausage rolls because Celtic have not crossed the finishing line yet! A late James McFadden equaliser against St.Mirren saw Celtic's chance of securing the SPL championship disappear faster than a Rangers player eating a burger at Nandos.

Celtic held up their end as they put Hibernian to the sword with a comfortable 3-0 win. Two goals from Kris Commons and another from Mikael Lustig, edged Celtic onto the edge of glory.

- Celtic's title party delayed

It wasn't to be, but in reality, the whole atmosphere was nothing like it has been in previous years when winning a title.

Don't get me wrong, the fans were celebrating one minute and then resigned to the fact that it would happen another day, but there were no stomach-churning feelings, there were no nerves being shot, no finger nails being bitten down to the knuckles. But again, that is not Celtic's fault. Celtic did what they had to do this season, that is why they are top of the Scottish Premier League, and come the end of the season it is another major trophy in the Parkhead trophy room.

We saw last year in the English Premier League how the title went down to the wire with the very last kick of the game as Manchester City secured the title with a superb goal from Sergio Aguero. That goal and title victory gave them the bragging rights over their city rivals Manchester United, but more importantly for those fans supporting the victorious side -- it was the adrenalin, the experience, the nerves, the last-minute ending, the twist and turns and above all, the atmosphere.

Other than Celtic's Champions League campaign, no Celtic fan can say they have experienced those emotions and experiences domestically this season. And for me that is what makes this season, while another successful year for the bhoys, somewhat of an anti-climax.

There was no competition for the league title and again that is not down to Celtic, nor is it down to the clubs in the SPL -- as their resources, fan base and finances are limited compared to Celtic's. Arguably the blame lies across the city in Govan, where a Rangers side has brought Scottish football to its knees almost.

Anti-climax and only one club to blame

This whole season, as well as last season, has been overshadowed by the antics, the financial mismanagement, the hostile rhetoric and the threats from the blue half of Glasgow. Coupled with the inability or the lack of willingness from the governing bodies to grab the bull by the horns and take ownership of the situation, they have meekly left it up to the clubs who were going to kowtow to a club who had breached SPL rules -- hence their fine of £250,000 -- their ability to spend money they did not have nor could not pay back to the bank, to their creditors and more importantly to other football clubs.

The fans rose up and the clubs had to take notice, although now they have gone back to ignoring their customer base once more when finances are looking thin on the ground. They will be even thinner if they continue to ignore the fans, their clientele and ignore their wants and needs, as they have continued to do over the years.

So, back to Celtic, next week will see Celtic face Dundee United in the Scottish Cup semi final -- they should nudge past United on their way to the final -- but as this season has shown nothing is ever certain. If Celtic are knocked out or do not win the Scottish Cup, this season will be a major disappointment domestically.

Ignoring the European campaign and the success that it was, personally speaking I believed that Celtic should have won the treble this year. Whether it was down to a lack of concentration, tiredness, over complicating the games or just thinking they would walk through the games, they didn't.

They were tipped to win the SPL, as without Rangers in the league there was no serious competition, however seeing the type of players that are at Rangers this season, I doubt they would have given Celtic a serious challenge anyway.

They would have still lost their best players, they would still have signed the flops that they did and they would have dropped points as they have done in Division Three -- if not more points.

It's all hypothetical of course, but I doubt they would have sustained a challenge on the title and likely would have struggled to hit the top six with the form of Inverness Caley and Ross County among others knocking them out of the way.

And the Rangers fans wouldn't even like to contemplate what the Glasgow Derby would have been like. The atmosphere at the game would have been as venomous as ever, but on the pitch it would have been a demolition, a massacre. One or two of their players would have stepped up to the mark as per usual, trying to lead from the front. But no, they would have imploded -- would that have been good for the game?

Press Association/AP ImagesWinning the Scottish Cup would be a nice finish to Neil Lennon's successful season at Parkhead.

Celtic, either way, would have been tipped as favourites and if they lost the league they would have been hammered for it and even when they win it they would still be hammered from all quarters for not doing it in style, for not doing it this way or that way. Celtic were in a lose-lose situation either way with their critics and detractors foaming at the mouth to have a go.

After the split

Celtic will know their last five fixtures on Monday -- they will face Inverness Caley Thistle, Ross County, Motherwell, St.Johnstone and Dundee United. Their first game after the United cup semifinal, should be the game that Celtic secures the title. Fifteen points ahead of second placed Motherwell, a draw is needed but Celtic should go out with a bang and win all their remaining games.

They should also give their youngsters a chance to gain experience for next season. McGeouch, Watt, Rogic, the Twardzik twins and any other player that deserves to have their shot. It will not only aid their development as the next generation of Celtic players, but also the club itself in the long run.

Come the end of the season, the deadwood would be cut out from the squad. Several top players will be sold inevitably -- including Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper -- which will bring in a pretty penny for Celtic to aid Neil Lennon in the next campaign.

Either way the title party can't come soon enough and the sooner it is here, the more relaxed the players, the fans and the management will be. And they can ignore the comments from the usual suspects as they spout how this title is tainted, how they wouldn't have won it if Rangers were there etc etc. Fact is going on what has occurred over the past season or so and the revelations that have been made public -- only one club has tainted Scottish football and they secured the Third Division title last weekend -- in less convincing fashion than Celtic have done in regards to the SPL championship.

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