Dalglish: Rivals’ absence won’t lessen Celtic wins

Liverpool and Celtic legend Kenny Dalglish. Picture: Donald MacLeod
Liverpool and Celtic legend Kenny Dalglish. Picture: Donald MacLeod
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KENNY Dalglish knows how hard it is for a manager to win a treble, particularly in a first full season at a club.

He was in his maiden season as a manager full-stop, doing his best to combine playing with managing, when Liverpool surprisingly lost to Queens Park Rangers in the semi-final of the League Cup in 1986.

It was a particularly infuriating loss over two legs – Liverpool managed to score two own goals in the 2-2 second leg draw at Anfield after losing 1-0 at Loftus Road – since the club went on to win the double that season. It could of course have been a treble had it not been for a shock exit at the hands of the London club.

English football in the mid-Eighties was a rather more competitive place than Scottish football is now. But Dalglish still believes that, whatever he circumstances, three domestic trophies in Ronny Deila’s first season as Celtic manager deserves to be both praised and celebrated – if it happens.

Yesterday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final draw handed Celtic a trip to Dundee United which means the champions need to overcome one of the form teams in the country in both cup competitions. They must also withstand a robust challenge from Aberdeen, Inverness and United if they are to be successful in retaining the league title.

“They are in the Europa League as well, so it could be four trophies,” said Dalglish, wryly, when considering the prospect of Celtic winning the treble for what would be only the fourth time in their history.

Many are of the opinion that the achievement, while still clearly commendable, can hardly be compared to the previous successes in 1967 (when they lifted the European Cup as well with a win over Inter Milan, their Europa League opponents), 1969 and 2001.

In the late 1960s, Scottish football was a vibrant place to be while in 2001 under Martin O’Neill, Celtic had to ward off the challenge of high-spending Rangers. Now, by comparison, three of the traditional big clubs in Scotland, including Celtic’s biggest rivals, are in the second tier. “If you win a treble, though, you win a treble,” pointed out Dalglish. “It says nothing in the history books about not being up against such and such a team or that somebody was beaten in a poor result in the cup. They just say that you won the treble and that should never be undermined. Nothing else will be recorded in the history books other than the fact that the winners of the Scottish Cup or the Premiership in 2015, for example, were Celtic,” he added. “The historians would need to tell you that Rangers, Hearts and Hibs were not in the league. I don’t think there is anyone’s name on any trophy with words about what kind of state their biggest rivals were in.

“Aberdeen and Dundee United have really stepped up to the plate. They are looking good this year. The League Cup final will be a difficult one for them, even though they have signed two players from Dundee United, which maybe weakens them a little bit.”

Dalglish believes Deila is beginning to prove his worth after a difficult beginning to his tenure at Parkhead, when the team looked unconvincing in the league and were eliminated two times over from the Champions League qualifying stages. “He got off to a bad start but deserves credit for the way they have picked up and moved forward,” said Dalglish.

• Kenny Dalglish is urging local communities to recognise a #GrassrootsHero and nominate them for the 2015 Scottish FA Grassroots Awards, presented by McDonald’s. For more information and to nominate a club, league, coach or volunteer, visit www.mcdonalds.co.uk/awards