Celtic dream of 10 in a row nearly realised as Lennon’s Bhoys match Lisbon Lions

Published on: May 19, 2020
Author: Jamie Clark
10 in a row for Celtic could happen

No team really wants to be crowned champions on a points-per-game average, but it has brought Celtic a step closer to 10 in a row – their Holy Grail.

The Bhoys last dominated Scottish football like this in the mid-1960s through to the mid-1970s. In domestic terms at least, the Celtic of today can say they match the mighty Lisbon Lions.

Both then and now, nine consecutive Scottish league championships sit in the Parkhead trophy cabinet. The prospect of 10 in a row is not only uncharted territory but very real.

Neil Lennon, in his second spell as Bhoys boss, called the latest title triumph his best achievement in football. The Northern Irish midfielder captain turned coach of Celtic now has 10 championships as player and manager.

Lennon’s own individual haul isn’t 10 in a row, but he now has the chance to cement his legacy. Just as the Lisbon Lions had Billy McNeill leading them on the pitch and Jock Stein off it, he has steered the Bhoys to glory in an albeit very different era.

Bhoys can only beat what’s in front of them

It is easy to knock the Celtic of recent years. No real tangible progress in Europe means they are nowhere near the force of Stein’s Scottish sporting icons from 1967.

Eternal enemies and bitter Old Firm rivals Rangers weren’t even challenging the Bhoys for Scottish Premiership honours between 2012 and 2016.

What occurred at Ibrox near the start of their current run as the dominant footballing force in Scotland is hardly Celtic’s fault.

An absence of real competition does denigrate from the achievement, though. If the likes of Aberdeen couldn’t take up the mantle and invoke the spirit of the mid-1980s, then that is their shortcoming.

The Celtic team of recent years has contained one or two gems, though, most notably Virgil van Dijk.

Brown the modern day McNeill

Constants are a rare enough thing in football now, but skipper Scott Brown in the engine room and James Forrest on the wing stayed loyal.

Lennon perhaps sees and always has seen something of himself in no frills midfielder Brown. He effectively filled the manager’s boots in 2007 when Lennon left Parkhead to finish his playing career in England.

Signed from Hibernian to replace Lennon, Brown may be one of the most underrated players of his generation. His Bhoys trophy haul, including cups, stands at 21 now.

History will show it was old Hibs boss Tony Mowbray who gave Brown the armband in February 2010. Just over a month later, however, he got the sack and Lennon had the Parkhead hotseat.

McNeill skippered Celtic for 13 years and won 22 domestic honours. Comparing eras is always problematic, but take out the European Cup and there’s little to choose between him and Brown.

Rangers will have a go at stopping 10 in a row

There are two sides to every story, and on the other face of the Old Firm coin is Rangers’ frustration. Managed by Liverpool’s Kop idol Steven Gerrard, who doesn’t know anything about winning league titles, their latest challenge to Celtic fizzled out.

At one stage in the curtailed 2019-20 campaign, it looked like we might have a title race on our hands. Rangers are no strangers to dominating Scottish football, even if their boss doesn’t have a championship to his name.

Their own hopes of 10 in a row dashed in 1998 by Celtic, it will be Gerrard’s biggest coaching achievement should he repay the Bhoys in kind next term.

He will hope to make it third time lucky in his pursuit of Scottish Premiership success. Celtic enjoyed a 13-point lead over Rangers when 2019-20 stopped, so the gap remains wide.

That stranglehold on Scottish football is shorn of celebrations now but, if the Bhoys bring 10 in a row next term, you’ll hear the cheers well beyond the East End of Glasgow.