The weekend results in Scotland confirmed the season’s seismic shift in the balance of power at the top table of Scottish football.
Rangers are champions again, for the 55th time and the first in ten long years, which has seen the club plumb the depths of Scottish professional football. To give a sense of perspective, eight years ago this weekend, they lost 1-2 at Ibrox to little Annan Athletic in Scottish League Two (fourth tier).
In the lead-up to that game against Annan, Rangers then chief executive Charles Green described the current side as “probably the worst” Rangers team ever, but they did win their first promotion that season.
Their journey was long and arduous and fans feeling aggrieved at opposition clubs for their perceived ‘sinking’ of Rangers will find this long-awaited day all the sweeter for it.
Flares and fireworks filled the sky as a fervent atmosphere of celebration greeted Gerrard and the players on their way into Ibrox yesterday. Rangers needed 4 points to be crowned champions, but a win over St Mirren would do provided Celtic failed to win their fixture at Dundee United today.
St Mirren, the only side to defeat Rangers domestically this season, were consummately swept aside, 3-0 the scoreline, prompting Rangers players and some staff to run to one corner of the stadium to acknowledge fans, who had flouted coronavirus lockdown restrictions by gathering outside hours before kick-off.
As Steven Gerrard, in his third season as coach, said at the end of the game, “We’re just millimetres away.”
Rangers may have preferred a Celtic win today so they could clinch the title at the home of their great rivals in two weeks time, but Celtic were unable to score in a Tannadice stalemate, 0-0 the final, and Rangers’ championship was confirmed, denying Celtic a first-ever ten-in-a-row collection of Scottish titles.
The Gers however will have the satisfaction as newly-crowned champions of receiving a guard of honour from the Celtic players as they run out at Parkhead in two weeks time.
Celtic meanwhile are a club in trouble in a league where only bettering your Glasgow rival matters. They anticipated a gloriously historic season. No club has ever won ten Scottish titles in succession. But they reckoned without Gerrard, who’s done a phenomenal job across the city, and relinquished their crown meekly and prematurely. It’s been a horrid title defence.
They failed to strengthen from a position of strength and now face uncertainty, change and the probability that a strong-again Rangers will dominate for a few seasons to come, especially if Gerrard remains.
Celtic Chief executive Peter Lawwell is leaving at the season’s end, manager Neil Lennon has already exited and there’s talk about the appointment of a Director of Football. A massive rebuild looms after a terrible season as the Hoops fell ignominiously from grace.
As for Rangers it is the earliest Scottish title win in chronological terms in a campaign in which they dropped just eight points in an unbeaten league campaign so far, won 28, drawn 4. Seventy-seven goals have been scored and only nine conceded.
When Steven Gerrard arrived at the club three seasons ago it wasn’t only a team he needed to rebuild, it was the entire club. The state that Rangers were in he was probably the best manager they could have attracted, they probably got him only because he had no management experience on his CV.
The full transition has taken three years, time in which the gap consistently narrowed with Celtic either powerless to improve, blind towards Rangers’ improvement, or both.
In the end Gerrard purchased wisely and turned a 39-point deficit against Celtic in the season before he arrived, into a 20-point advantage. A difference of 59.
To every Rangers fan it’s been a long time coming, but their day in the sun has finally arrived.
Check out the latest The Ball Is Round Podcast (Episode 18). Recorded Wednesday evening the TBIR team discuss the general state of CF Montreal in the wake of Thierry Henry’s departure and recent Re-branding/Renaming...
Every Week - The Ball Is Round...
@TBIRMontreal - please follow us for regular, weekly CF Montreal, Canadian, MLS and international content in English!