Why Celtic’s bejeweled league crowning puts Ange Postecoglou's side above Brendan Rodgers' and Steven Gerrard's invincibles

Celtic’s crowning as champions this season has been their destiny for so long it has almost felt like a birthright. The natural order.
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou has been a passion-instiller for a support desperate to acclaim a second successive title  triumph for the Australian that has been set-up by sparkling football. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou has been a passion-instiller for a support desperate to acclaim a second successive title  triumph for the Australian that has been set-up by sparkling football. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou has been a passion-instiller for a support desperate to acclaim a second successive title triumph for the Australian that has been set-up by sparkling football. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Successfully defending their title became a case of when, not if, for Ange Postecoglou’s men months back. The second day of 2023, to be precise. When a late equaliser from Kyogo Furuhashi spared them defeat in their Ibrox hosting by - nominal - challengers Rangers to preserve a nine-point lead in the cinch Premiership. Inevitably, this sense of the league having been so long the preserve of Celtic can dull to just how bejeweled the conquest will be should they seal it at Tynecastle this weekend. The sparkle, the sheen, the scintillating manner with which Postecoglou and his playing gems have dazzled the opposition within their, albeit modest, domain demands any hint of indifference be eschewed. For, make no mistake, in the modern age of the Scottish top flight there hasn’t been a team as consistently entertaining and enterprising as the flailing funsters the Australian has finessed.

Owing to their loss away to St Mirren in September, this latest title triumph will be devoid of the cache attached to the unbeaten league successes of Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic in 2016-17 and Steven Gerrard’s Rangers two years ago. For sheer watchability, though, Postecoglou’s men need not defer to either of these teams. Not when they boast a 9-0 win, a six-goal mauling, two five-goal returns, and five encounters when they have netted four times across 33 games that have yielded 30 wins, two draws and that solitary defeat.

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Granted, the lustre of the champions-and-treble-snarers-in-waiting appears to have been slightly scuffed in more recent times - the 1-1 draw with Motherwell in their last league outing spoiling their faultless home record. Yet, the fact is that the highest points total in the history of Scottish football remains within their grasp. It may be that the victories required from all five of their post-split games will not be banked. Should Celtic achieve that arduous feat though, they would finish with 107 points would set a new record, topping the 106 total of Rodgers’ invincibles. Moreover, with 103 goals netted, Postecoglou’s side could yet eclipse the 116 haul from 1916 that stands as Celtic’s best such return of all time.

These landmarks are still in play because of the intoxicating mix of drive and deftness that has characterised Celtic’s displays for so much of the campaign. All of which flows from their manager’s demand that his squad “never waste a minute”. Embodied in the industry and invention of 29-goal Kyogo Furuhashi, a flying flea of a forward and finisher. And unarguably, the most exhilarating performer to adorn Scottish football in the near two decades since Henrik Larsson departed for Barcelona. The verve that Celtic have applied to their attacking appetite through the jinking and jabbing of Jota and the monstrous work-rate and willing of Daizen Maeda, have set them apart. Yes, the now knee-operation recuperating Cameron Carter-Vickers has been immense in repelling opponents at the heart of Celtic’s backline. And, yes, captain Callum McGregor has marshalled his team with metronomic and measured adroitness in the middle of the park, where Reo Hatate has exhibited buzzing brilliance. Postecoglou’s pristine player recruitment also reflected in the impact of a host of other contributors such as Matt O’Riley, Aaron Mooy, Carl Starfelt and Alistair Johnston. As well as the consistent excellence of the inherited Greg Taylor. Unquestionably, though, the delight to be found in Celtic’s domination of their set-up has been in their thirst to produce thrusting, front-foot football.

That is what has made them unrivalled across recent times in another facet. Only 1,400 travelling supporters will be in the Gorgie ground for their potential coronation. But so taken have been the Celtic fanbase over the princely qualities of their team that they have lined the seats at their home stadium in unprecedented fashion. Every home game over recent months has been a sell-out. Postecoglou has been a passion-instiller. No title celebrations will be as crazed as those witnessed for Napoli’s Serie A clinching this week, which came 33 years after the second of their two Diego Maradona-inspired such successes. An edgy city careering into utter lawlessness showed the grip the game holds on human emotions. As Postecoglou believes is a cause for celebration….if not quite those that inevitably spiralled completely out of control in Italy.

“Passion shows people’s love and care for something,” he said. “We all want that in our lives, whether that’s through sport or anything else. People know the story of Napoli historically, and particularly with Maradona and what it means to the people of Naples to be champions. Particularly when a club hasn’t had success for a long time, it’s great. In that context you want people to be safe but at the same time that is what we all live for. The hope is all of us have got something in our lives we’re that passionate about, that it gets us to run out in the streets and scream from the top of our lungs.”

Even if Celtic are on course for their fifth treble in a mere eight years, should his team “bring it home” - as he has said of their quest to make it over the line against Hearts - thousands wil leave their abodes to share the moment uproariously with Postecoglou and his squad on their return to the club’s stadium. In doing so, the Celtic fans will demonstrate that such occasions have the capacity to electrify the senses each and every time. “Absolutely,” he said. “I don’t think it diminishes just because you’ve had success in the past. Every year gives you an opportunity to create something special, some special moments. I’ve got no doubt that should we be successful this weekend or whenever it is, our supporters will show what it means to them and what it means to their families, their circle of people. For so many this is their main sort of outlet for being able to show something outside of their family that means so much for them. They are well within their rights to show that emotion should their club be successful.”



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