Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Gerrard’s Rangers Or Lennon’s Celtic- Which Team’s Winning The Scottish Premiership This Season?

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Kenny Stewart
Chief Football writer for The 4th Official. Always honest and won't shy away from the truth.

Lockdown. What a strange world we’re living in. Peculiar times, unprecedented even. A point in history that’ll get spoken about for decades if not centuries to come. A time where we will look back at with our own thoughts. Each one of us will have a story to tell when we look back on our personal experience.

Forty six thousand people have had their lives taken from them in the last four months in the UK, so perhaps football is not the most important thing in life for us here, but it’s an escape from the reality of where the human race finds itself, in the here and now.

We in Scotland have had the most bizarre four months. This is a website designed for football so I shall attempt to write a little about the crazy world of Scottish football, what’s went on since the lockdown began and the season that’s just started last weekend.

Celtic, the champions of the SPFL. A title that was handed to them via a vote on Zoom. They’ll tell you it was democratic; they’ll let you know that they were ahead in last season’s title race; therefore, they are deserved champions.

Well, maybe, maybe not. The truth of the matter is we’ll never truly know how the season would’ve panned out.

The weekend prior to lockdown there was supposed to be an Old Firm game at Ibrox. In my opinion, if (and it is an IF) Rangers had won that fixture, then I doubt the SPFL would’ve gotten away with handing over the title to Celtic.

The gap would’ve been cut to ten points with Rangers having a game in hand. There was also another derby still to be played, and with Rangers having won the last match between the sides at Celtic Park in December, then there would still be all to play for if Rangers had won the game that was cancelled.

Timing, eh? We will never know how it would’ve panned out, and if I were a Celtic fan or involved with that club, I’d have been desperate to finish the season.

Celtic voted to end the season. Rangers didn’t. I still find that very odd.

The legalities of the SPFL vote and the subsequent relegation of Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer have been well documented, I wrote my thoughts on it on The 4th Official last month, so I’m not going to bother going over it again. If you are interested, give it a read here.

Hearts chairwoman Ann Budge
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND – JUNE 30: Ann Budge, Owner, CEO and Chairwoman of Hearts (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Suffice to say I didn’t agree with handing out titles. I didn’t agree with relegating clubs. I didn’t agree with rewarding teams in an unfinished season, and I most certainly didn’t agree with the financial repercussions handed out to certain clubs while others were benefiting greatly from politicking and forcing an end to the season while it was still plausible that the season could’ve been finished.

Now we sit here with last season over. The SFA ruling (just a week before the new season started) that Hearts and Thistle get nothing in terms of recompense. That in itself is disgraceful. They did nothing wrong; they were denied the opportunity to haul themselves out of the position they found themselves in, but no. The season was ended, and those clubs at the bottom of their respective leagues were relegated without a single penny of compensation given.

I suppose it’s understandable that other clubs in Scotland decided to look after their own interests; after all the SPFL has no sponsor, they’ve lost countless overseas tv contracts and a bunch of stuttering incompetents runs the league, so it’s every man for himself and bugger everybody else…

So here we are at the start of a brand new season. A kid on ten in a row up for grabs for Celtic while Rangers have the opportunity to win the league for the first time since their financial meltdown.

Celtic got themselves off to a flyer against Hamilton Accies. A fairly run of the mill and expected romp at home to one of the clubs you would expect to be towards the bottom of the table. A five- one thumping and bar a bit of ring rust, they slapped Accies aside with ease.

Rangers found themselves with a difficult away tie up at Pittodrie against Aberdeen. They dominated and controlled the game, coming away with a good win. A solid performance at a tough venue and also looked pretty good.

What about the other teams in the league? Is there any that will surprise us or challenge? No, I can’t see it at all.

No fans in stadia, low uptake on season tickets and loss of serious revenue looks to have weakened most clubs in the Scottish Premiership with one or two exceptions. For me, when I’m looking at the ten clubs outside of the Glasgow clubs, there’s very little separating them.

Andrew Considine of Aberdeen makes a foul
ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND – AUGUST 01: Andrew Considine of Aberdeen fouls Scott Arfield of Rangers FC and is later sent off for the challenge during the Ladbrokes Premiership match between Aberdeen and Rangers at Pittodrie Stadium on August 01, 2020 in Aberdeen, Scotland. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Andrew Milligan/Pool via Getty Images)

Aberdeen looked feeble in the attack, average in midfield and overrated at the back when you compare them to Aberdeen teams over the last six or seven years.

Hibs look.. well, like Hibs. They’ll go on a run or two then contrive to lose to teams at the bottom end of the league three weeks running. It’s what they always do, and they do it very well.

Motherwell and Kilmarnock look slightly weaker than last season; however, I think those two along with Aberdeen and Hibs will likely find themselves in the top six. They’re two of the better squads in the league, and they’ll do pretty well I’m sure.

The bottom end is more clear cut for me, Dundee United simply don’t have a strong enough squad, so along with Hamilton Accies, I think they’re favourites to go down at the end of the season. It’ll be interesting to watch and see how Shankland makes the step up. I’m not convinced, but if he goes on to prove me wrong, then Dundee United might just stay up.

St Mirren, St Johnstone, Ross County and Livingston will have just enough about them to stay up I would think, but that’ll be the bottom six clubs I would think.

So, back to the top end of the table. Who’s going to win the league this season?

Will it be Celtic, going for a record ten league titles in a row or will Rangers stop them and win their first silverware in a decade? The ten in a row thing is a bit of hype and not much else, to be honest.

Celtic fans will say it’s the Holy Grail. Rangers fans will laugh at that and point to the first title when Rangers went into administration and were docked points. They’ll allude to the four years where they weren’t in the top tier, and they’ll most certainly tell you that last years title was handed to Celtic by the puppets that run the national game, so the number ‘ten’ is there, but the relevance of it is different to both sets of fans.

Celtic are favourites. They’ve won ten trophies on the bounce with the incredible opportunity to win LAST season’s Scottish Cup, THIS season!

I mean, how weird is that? The Scottish season was brought to an abrupt and premature end yet surreally there’s a way round everything we were told about the season having to end early, a point reiterated by Neil Doncaster just the other day.

(Can I just remind you the SFA wrote to UEFA along with the SPFL to say the Scottish season HAD to finish early. The same SFA that are concluding their 2019/2020 season just before Christmas).

Hands up who thinks the Scottish Cup would’ve been scrapped if Celtic had been knocked out before the semi-finals? 🙋‍♀️

What an absolute farce the governing bodies in Scottish football are.

Barkas now a Celtic goalie
Griechenland – Fußball Super League Saison 2019-2020 Olympiastadion Athen OAKA, 08.07.2020 Playoffs AEK Athen – OFI Kreta 2:0 AEK Athen Vasilis Barkas mit Ball im Portrait AEK Athen – OFI Kreta 2:0 PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxGRE ANE5110432

Celtic have signed a goalkeeper from Greece. I would be fairly confident he won’t be as good as Forster who they had on loan last season and was their number one target for this season, but Barkas will be a good keeper nonetheless. I haven’t seen much of him, so it’s difficult to judge when you don’t know anything about him.

As far as I’m aware they’re intending on bringing in another one or two to bolster their squad as well, so I can see them doing something similar to last season where they didn’t drop that many points. Celtic have a consistency that Rangers need to match all season.

That’s the pressure Rangers are under. They are competing with a club that will perhaps only lose fifteen or so points all season. That means Rangers must find that consistency that’s evaded them after the winter break in the past two seasons.

In saying that, I do think Rangers have strengthened their squad. Several fringe players have left, while a fair few have come into the club plus they do all look to be an upgrade on those that left in the summer.

Hagi and Defoe have signed permanently, while Balogun from Brighton replaces Katic in the squad due to Katic’s long term knee injury. Cover for Barisic in Bassey from Leicester along with a new goalkeeper, Jon McLaughlin brought to replace Foderingham.

On Tuesday, Rangers signed Kemar Roofe and Cedric Itten. Both strikers and both know their way to the goal. Itten is a Swiss international, and from what I’ve seen of him, he is very decent. Roofe is a fantastic player, and if he is fit and stays fit, then he will cause any team in Scotland major problems.

Alfredo Morelos celebrating with Ryan Kent
ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND – AUGUST 01: Ryan Kent of Rangers FC celebrates with Alfredo Morelos and team mates after scoring his team’s first goal during the Ladbrokes Premiership match between Aberdeen and Rangers at Pittodrie Stadium on August 01, 2020 in Aberdeen, Scotland. (Photo by Andrew Milligan/Pool via Getty Images)

This news possibly suggests Alfredo Morelos is finally on his way out of Ibrox and onto pastures new. A fabulous three seasons in Scotland is coming to an end, and he’ll go with most Rangers fans blessing. The abuse he’s put up with here in Scotland, well no wonder the kid wants away.

Good luck to him wherever he ends up. He will be a success in any league because the boy can play and play very well.

So who’s going to win the league? My heart says Rangers; my head says Celtic.

In saying that I honestly think this is Rangers best opportunity to stop the run Celtic are on. They’ve been through it so often and know how to get over the line but every season is a new one with new players. The past is history, and it’s done, forgotten about.

Rangers have improved their squad quite markedly though. Better cover in certain positions and the two strikers are going to be a handful for Scottish defences for sure.

Rangers are a player short for me; a creative, attack-minded central midfielder. Finding the ball to unlock a defence or beat the low block will make the difference to them. If they can get a guy that’ll score ten and set up twenty from midfield, then they’ll have all the tools required to win the league in my opinion.

Whoever that player maybe, it’s imperative that Rangers get him in and get the best out of him. If they can then Rangers will be a very formidable outfit.

I have a feeling the title race will go right to the wire, it’ll be tight, and there won’t be too many points dropped by either side until the pressure really kicks in.

That’s where managers earn their salary. Getting your team to perform and producing results when the pressure is intolerable, well, that’s what wins leagues.

It’s up to Rangers to stop Celtic; they won’t get handed it easily. We’ll see who Celtic bring in and how much it adds to them and if it makes a difference to them

They have a strong, experienced squad that have won several leagues and cups. They’re consistent, and they’re confident.

It’s all to play for but if you gave me a tenner and told me to place a bet on who I think will ultimately be the champions of Scotland for 2020/2021 then I’d give the bookie a slip marked “Rangers” on it.

That is unless we end up in another lockdown. If that scenario unfolds then Rangers better be twenty points clear as there’s not a chance in hell the SPFL will hand Rangers a title unless it was way beyond any shadow of a doubt.

They’d only do that for an auld china of Murdoch, Neil and Rod’s…

Stay safe and healthy folks.

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