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Just when it seemed the Scottish Premiership title race was alive again, she was buried on the spot by a crush and the Rangers’ victory at Ibrox.
A 1-0 win at the Old Firm on Saturday put Steven Gerrard’s team on an advantage that is beyond dominance. 19 points, from a team that has lost only four in 22 games so far. It is impregnable, even Yes Celtic wins each of their three games in hand.
As the dream of a 10th straight title collapses around them, it feels like the end of the world for the defending champions. After nine years of tireless effort, the reset button has just been pressed, sending them back to a reality where a title is challenging enough; much less ten.
They have been living in the clouds for the past nine years, but now is the time for Celtic to return to the real world. A world where they really need a strategy, beyond just being celtic, if they want to win trophies on a regular basis.
Ten in a row is something they have been desperate for since Rangers won their ninth on the rebound in 1997. Since their rivals were kicked out of the top flight in 2011, giving them a clear lead and run in the field. legendary achievement, the idea has consumed them.
And while that ultimate goal has been a driving force at times, the nature of its existence is widely complacent. The habit of winning is rarely a bad thing, but Celtic’s own dominance tricked them into believing that they were genuinely infallible no matter what they did.
So when Brendan Rodgers left in 2019, they felt that naming Neil Lennon was a perfectly good thing. What is the worst that can happen?
Recruiting the Irishman in the first place was a predictably poor decision, and a sin that will never be forgiven as far as Celtic fans are concerned. However, taken outside of the Ten in a Row narrative, it’s not something that will set you back years. Because the base is there for whoever takes charge of the construction.
Eyes rolled as Lennon tried to take on the positives of Celtic’s loss at Old Firm at the weekend, but he was right. Celtic was really impressive. They dominated the league leaders for the first hour, and surely would have won, if Nir Bitton’s ridiculous decision-making hadn’t turned the game around.
The much better acting was a symptom of the adaptability that Lennon has found somewhere deep within himself. The emergence of David Turnbull and Ismaila Soro, formerly peripheral figures, has made Celtic a team capable of winning again; they had won six on the rebound, including a European tie and a cup final, heading into Saturday.
Lennon’s failure to deliver Ten will cost him his job, either now or in the summer, but the team he leaves behind shouldn’t require a full rebuild before he can compete again. A midfield core from the enigmatic Turnbull and the graceful and commanding Soro, complemented by Callum McGregor’s experience and winning mindset, is as promising a foundation as you’ll find.
In his collection of forwards, there are goals somewhere. Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths are proven scorers at the Premiership level, Patryk Klimala is raw but promising, and Albian Ajeti shouldn’t be ruled out entirely. alone still.
Jeremie Frimpong, although not yet established in the best position, seems genuinely prodigious, although other talented players are not lacking. Ryan Christie’s production remains strong despite a relatively poor season, while Olivier Ntcham and Tom Rogic, currently in disgrace, may unlock defenses.
And that’s before the injured James Forrest is reintroduced.
They need to work at the rear, to be sure, but their first-choice central defensive association is as strong as they could realistically wish for. The formidable duo of Christopher Jullien and Kris Ajer have been limited by injury this season, but they complement each other’s attributes well and are individually far better than the Scottish Premiership.
To challenge the Rangers next season, they will need a new goalkeeper, unless Vasilis Barkas can prove he is worth his high price between now and summer. They will also have to strengthen themselves as a winger: in addition to Frimpong, Greg Taylor and Hatem Abd Elhamed are the only two at the club who have a real chance of getting involved in the long term.
More defensive depth will be required (Shane Duffy is not the answer, who would have thought) as well as a midfielder with leadership qualities, as Scott Brown surely is out.
However, with three or four good additions, there is a team that can win again immediately, and in a more sustainable way than has been the case since Lennon took the reins for the second time.
Celtic got so used to being the best that they thought they would never be defeated. But it was always going to happen eventually, it’s just cruel that it happened now, with a historic milestone on the horizon.
However, not being able to get past the finish line of finish lines does not detract from the work that has been done up to this point. A treble quadruple is not nothingbut it will lose meaning quickly if the club chooses to wallow in self-pity rather than fight back.
It may not seem like it now, while the wounds are fresh, but Celtic can use the second half of this season to their advantage. Ten is gone, but that doesn’t mean it’s game over.
It’s simply the end of a chapter, and whenever the club hears the alarm bells and wakes up from its complacent slumber, the next one is a serious promise.