KRIS Commons has revealed that he hopes Rangers find a way out of their current Championship predicament to earn top flight promotion via the play-offs this season.
The 31-year-old Celtic attacker maintained yesterday that the treble his side are chasing – and which goes on the line in the Scottish Cup quarter-final replay tonight at home to a Dundee United side they beat in Sunday’s League Cup final to tick off a first trophy in the clean sweep bid – would not be devalued by the Ibrox side’s status in the second tier. He does though believe that the global profile and fascination in Scottish football has been devalued by the two sides not meeting regularly in league competition.
“The games with Rangers are the best games,” said Commons. “They draw the best crowds, a large TV audience for people around the world. It makes people want to get out of bed in the middle of the night in Australia. My mates down south don’t know much about Scottish footbal but they want to see that game.
“I love playing in them. There are a lot of fans who are on the fence whether it’s right or wrong, but I love them.”
Commons rejected out-of-hand any talk of a ‘tainted treble’ because of Rangers’ absence. And he believes that if Celtic could add the Scottish Cup and Premiership title to the silverware snared last weekend, the feat would stand comparison with the last of Celtic’s three trebles – achieved by Martin O’Neill’s side in 2000-01. Celtic then may have required to topple a Rangers on their way to ruin as they racked up debts of nearly £100m after a transfer splurge sanctioned by owner David Murray. But they succeeded courtesy of their own heaviest-ever investment in a playing squad way beyond the current spending level, Commons highlighted.
“I think the last time it was done was in an era when money and wages were massive,” he said. “You look at the team – [Chris] Sutton, [Neil] Lennon, [John] Hartson and [Henrik] Larsson – people that were on fortunes and I think they got a huge amount of credit for what they did. If we can get across the line and achieve this treble I don’t think it should be looked upon as a lesser achievement. It’s the same level.”
Commons said he has “entered new territory” in the pursuit of a treble after claiming his first League Cup winners’ medal following four years at the club. The pressure is ramping up, he admitted, while there remains “no margin for error” in cup contests such as the one that tonight brings against the Tannadice men for the third time in 11 days. “The cup games are the biggest hurdles now,” he said. “We could drop a point in the league, perhaps lose one or two games, but still have a couple of weeks to put in a performance. In the cups it’s one day, extra time and maybe penalties, so if we’re not quite right you could find yourself out and that’s the dream over. That’s why it’s been so hard to do, because only two managers and three teams [from Celtic] have ever done it.”
Commons, with typical candour, admitted that “a bit of a dampener” was put on the way Celtic won the League Cup as a consequence of the dispute between substitutes James Forrest and John Guidetti over the penalty the Scotland winger earned in the closing minutes. Guidetti took the hump and stormed down the tunnel at full-time still angry that Forrest – fresh from scoring his side’s second – had refused to part with the ball before he hit an insipid spot-kick that was easily saved.
The incident, which arose because nominated penalty takers Leigh Griffiths and Commons had been withdrawn, did not reflect well on the Celtic squad the former Derby County man conceded. “They were not great scenes,” he said. “The manager bases a lot on team spirit and team bonding. We are meant to have this good unit and not individuals, but clearly at the end it looked as though people were doing things on an individual basis. I don’t think any player – and I don’t care how big you are – should show a strop on a football field. You should never do that.
“I don’t think it has ever happened before at Celtic. It’s the sort of thing you see on The Footballing Years on Sky. It was like a [Paolo] Di Canio-[Frank] Lampard moment. I can understand from John’s point of view because he has taken a couple of penalties and scored. He has not been on the score sheet a lot of late and he wants to get goals.”
Cetlic manager Deila denied the Guidetti grump suggested the Swede possessed an ego that would not make the on-loan Manchester City striker a suitable personality to sign permanently, as remains the hope. “I don’t have any problems with him,” stated the Norwegian, who offered a “no” when asked if Guidetti had apologised . “He is a funny boy. He is a striker who loves scoring goals and wants to take penalties.
“These things can happen in intense games. That’s why it is important to have clear roles. They are young players and they have to learn and use these experiences to get better. We talked about the need to put the team first. There’s no point arguing. There have not been any big issues. We have talked about it, but it’s nothing. A lot of them wanted to take it and that’s good – we just have to pick the right one.”
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