The time for title tainting is over as far as Ian Durrant appears concerned. The Rangers legend doesn’t seem interested in picking further holes in the fact that bitter rivals Celtic were crowned champions for the ninth season running without actually clinching the top flight on the pitch.
The curtailment of the campaign that followed football being closed down – along with all other aspects of life – by the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in all manner of former players of the Ibrox club questioning the merit of Celtic’s achievement. Durrant refuses to add to the point-scoring, even as he picks his words carefully over how the scenario played out.
“Celtic were given the league, they voted and gave them the league. They are champions. Simple as,” said the 53-year-old, who was this week appointed assistant to Stevie Aitken at Lowland League club East Kilbride. “What can I say? People say things but that is irrelevant to me now that they have been given the league.
“You would have loved to have seen the league played out, but we weren’t given the opportunity. At the time Celtic were at the top of the league, 13 points in front, so they came to a decision, and that’s what happened.
“Rangers would have loved to have [carried on], Aberdeen could have got higher up the league, Motherwell, everybody would have wanted the league finished but we weren’t given that chance.
“The safety was paramount outside of football so football was on the back burner, so they came to a decision and that was the decision they came to.”
More pertinent for Durrant are his old club’s moves to prevent the Rangers nine-in-a-row which he played a key role within being eclipsed by Celtic in the season ahead – the SPFL targeting an August start date for that momentous campaign.
Despite the £3 million capture of Ianis Hagi from Genk this week, Durrant appears unsure as to whether Steven Gerrard will have the financial wherewithal to reshape the squad as he intends.
“I see them saying they want quality rather than quantity. Quality costs you, so if they are going down that route that must be the way they are going,” he said. “As far as I know they’ve released nine players so that’s nine players they have to replace unless you bring up from the youth.
“It will be a big year for Rangers next year, trying to stop Celtic and other teams will be wanting to play as well. So it’s about recruitment and they’ve got Ross Wilson in now, working with the management set-up so they’ll be on their guard to get as strong a squad as they can.”
Memories of that wholly unexpected failure by Walter Smith’s men to clinch the ten in 1997-98 are entitled to haunt those involved.
Not least when it was talked up before the campaign began that the Ibrox side had two teams capable of winning the league following a, then Scottish record, summer investment of £15m in new players. An outlay that came as Celtic found themselves in a state of flux as they signed up a raft of players under unknown new manager Wim Jansen.
“Yeah, the two teams…” said Durrant ruefully. “We had a squad there, too much of a squad, but over the season we had injuries, lost our top goalscorer Marco [Negri], Gazza [Paul Gascoigne] got sold, everything, with Brian [Laudrup] having agreed a deal to go to Chelsea. We lost too many games that year, that’s what happened, when going for ten-in-a-row. The consistency level we had had the previous nine years just wasn’t there.
“Remember you can only pick 11 players. In the ten-in-a-row season I was used sparingly, and now there is a lot of quality sitting in the stands. Now, I don’t think the present Rangers manager wants that; he wants the best quality he can get on the pitch. And then he can build a squad with 18, 19 players.
“The worst thing you want is a lot of players earning wages without playing. Maybe they can tap into their youth department and find a wee gem there.”
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