Former Rangers chairman Dave King, the club’s major shareholder, hasn’t missed any opportunity to spoil for a reaction from Celtic over their tumble in pursuit of a record 10th straight title; and the attendant championship success of Steven Gerrard’s men. The Parkhead club had become “arrogant” with “hubris creeping in” as they approached the season “as if the 10 was done” he suggested to STV recently. Adding that Celtic didn’t recognise Rangers had caught up and so “under-invested in the squad with the belief they had enough in the tank to see us off”.
Alighting on squad strengthening was curious from King when Celtic’s summer net spend - on the back of 11 straight domestic honours - was their highest in two decades. It might not have been a productive outlay, but more than £12m was lavished on new players. It is unsurprising, then, that John Kennedy has no truck with King’s assessment. And the Celtic interim manager, who will take charge in a derby for the first time when Rangers are hosted on Sunday, takes particular exception to accusations of egotism.
“It’s unfair to say we were arrogant,” Kennedy said. “He obviously doesn’t know what’s going on over here. He deals with his own club. We never show any arrogance as a club - we’re humble and try and do the right thing for us. We don’t concern ourselves with too many other clubs, or anyone else for that matter. We just focus on how we make ourselves better. It doesn’t always go to plan and that’s what has happened this season. Not everything is perfect. But we’ve had great success over recent seasons. At some point we were going to lose a trophy. You can’t go on forever. Unfortunately for us it’s come this season, and it’s been the league.
“But it’s how quickly we address that and how quickly we get back on track - and not just accept that someone else might be trying to take charge. It’s about us saying ‘we’ve been the most successful team in recent seasons and we want to get back to being that again’. Complacency in the summer certainly wasn’t a factor.”
Across the season Celtic have lost identity in being drained of authority that previously was a core strength. Kennedy knows he must do all in his power to reinstill that. "They're a team who have been successful, and when you are up there for so long, the comedown from that is big,” he said. “Not just for yourself, but for everyone else who has seen it for so long. It's how you motivate yourself to get back on top again, how you motivate yourself to get back that to improvement mindset that can take us forward.
“The players are good, trust me I see them working every day. They have not shown it enough this season, which is why I want them to go out on Sunday and show what they are truly capable of and their true level. [In the 0-0 last time out at] Tannadice, they were moments of that. There was good energy, they looked quick, strong, and created loads of chances. It's about building on that and over the last several weeks, we’ve tried to give them that belief.”