Date: 18th May 2008 at 5:21pm
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I know it’s very easy to answer the above question with something like: ‘here’s 50p – go and phone someone who gives a ****’ (because we’re Hearts fans jealous that we’re not involved!), but you surely can’t deny that the league title race between Rangers and Celtic possibly coming down to the last match is at least of some interest.

What was previously looking like a landslide victory for the poorest Rangers side I can ever remember has now turned into an exciting head-to-head with Celtic that really could go either way now, and indeed you’d probably have to say that Celtic are slight favourites given the goal difference situation.

However, that could all change depending upon how St Mirren decide to approach their match with Rangers this coming week. As Hearts fans only too well, the Buddies are past masters at assisting in dramatic last-day-of-the-season turnarounds (aye ok, well they did it once!), with their disgraceful ‘here you go guys – fill yer boots’-type performance at Love Street in 1986 that allowed Celtic to snatch the title from Hearts’ grasp on goal difference that year.

And while we’re threatening to touch on the intriguing world of footballing conspiracy theories, it’s interesting to note the role that Jimmy Calderwood and Aberdeen could have in this week’s decisive fixtures. Jimmy C (and his assistant Jimmy Nicholl) came in for a considerable amount of stick a few years ago when his Dunfermline side capitulated 6-1 at Ibrox to allow Rangers to sneak the title from Celtic on goal difference. ‘Tango Man’ is well known to be a closet (or perhaps not so!) Blue Nose and therefore this result did have a certain amount of suspicion attached to it, although I was always quick to point out that Celtic’s 5-0 win away to Kilmarnock that same day had more of an unlikely ring to it in all honesty.

This time around though, neither Old Firm side can boast the sort of talent that they had back then. Hammerings of the rest of the sides have been few and far between this season, and even in those games where the winning margin has looked comfortable, you can bet your bottom dollar that for at least some part of the match, either Rangers or Celtic will have struggled, and on many occasions will have been aided by a bit of luck or a dodgy refereeing decision. We’ve seen many examples of both lately as the pressure has intensified in recent weeks.

So if there were to be any major thrashings this week in any of the fixtures (particularly those on the last day involving Dundee United and Aberdeen), then more than a few eyebrows would be raised. Both last day fixtures look to be in the ‘frought with danger’ category, even if neither of their opposition have anything particularly tangible to play for.

For example, if Celtic were to hammer United, you’re definitely going to get people pointing the finger at Craig Levein and co, perhaps for attempting to get back at Rangers for the injustices they were dealt at Ibrox last weekend. United are a side who have built from the back and are extremely difficult to score goals against, so a sudden flood in Celtic’s favour on Thursday are definitely going to have people asking questions of them. I’m struggling to see this happening though.

Then there’s the equally, if not more intriguing prospect of the Aberdeen-Rangers fixture, which could prove to be a pivotal match on more than a single front. This has traditionally been the most hate-filled fixture in the country (outwith the Old Firm derby) since the ’80s, and despite Calderwood’s alleged links to Rangers, you’d find it difficult to see any Aberdeen side simply turning up and going through the motions in this fixture. If anything, it’s difficult to see this poor Rangers side (who are close to running on empty) getting the win that they’ll need to have any chance of winning the league there, so like United, the sheep are definitely going to come in for some criticism if they end up getting well beaten by Rangers on Thursday night.

It will also be very interesting to see what happens off the park at Pittodrie too, as given what happened in Manchester last week with the Rangers fans, you’d have to think that any serious crowd trouble there could have major implications for that football club. This fixture is known for the trouble it can attract and you can bet your bottom dollar that the neds amongst the Aberdeen support will be doing all they can to incite a reaction from the followers of their opponents in an attempt to get their club into serious trouble. Bearing this in mind I’d suggest that the police presence in and around the Aberdeen area on Thursday night will be considerable!

Whatever happens though, let’s hope that the headlines on Friday morning are all reporting on the football side of things rather than the sort of stuff we’ve been reading about since last Wednesday. Regardless of your own personal feelings about particular clubs, football violence involving Scottish clubs is not what we want to see, and hopefully what happend down south is a wake-up call that will encourage some positive action on that front in the near future.

As for who will actually win the SPL title though, I’m afraid I really can’t pick a winner. As mentioned above, Celtic are probably the slight favourites now, but I do think they have the most difficult fixture yet to play in United at Tannadice, even if I do think they are a better team than Rangers. And regardless of what happened at Ibrox last week, I simply cannot see United giving Celtic anything less than a very difficult game up there.

That said though, I was reading this morning that the last time Celtic won the league at Tannadice, it was the late Tommy Burns who scored the winner for them in a 3-2 win, way back in 1981. Is that a spooky omen perhaps, given that Burns tragically passed away this week? Stranger things have happened.

An interesting week in prospect…


30 Replies to “Who Will Win The SPL Title?”

  • Your first sentence summed it up for me, Mr H !! Out of pure entertainment value though, a couple of scenarios jump out. First, if Rangers win, it will be fun listening to Celtic fans turn on Mr Strachan on the phone-ins etc. Second, if Celtic win, it’ll be fun knowing that der Hun have lost 2 trophies in 10 days (hopefully with a 3rd defeat in the SC Final due to a Jamie McDonald shut-out), and more fun listening to Celtic fans turn on Mr Strachan for failing to win the league by 30 points. It really is good for the soul NOT being an OF fan !!

  • I’ve always thought that the scenario that would hack off both sets of OF fans the most would be a Celtic win. On one hand you’d have Rangers fans completely sick at blowing it more than we did in ’86, but on the other the Shellik men would likely be stuck with Strachan for another year (unless he walks) which they’d be less than happy about (see RKs comment for example). Sounds like a winning scenario!

  • presently my only interest is seeing how the match at Love St unfolds ,, it,s difficult to envisage anything other than a rangers win ,, but by what margin ? I would like to think that the 7 goals Celtic are in front would suffice should we be victorious at Tannadice ,, but as Mr H has intimated in the article ,, you never know !!! as a Celtic supporter all Iv,e ever wanted was the opportunity to course our own destiny and I,m reasonably confident that we can pull it off but until the score is through from Paisley I,ll continue to keep calm for the moment ,, a landslide victory there for the visitors will significantly distort the picture from a Celtic perspective and also give rangers a kiss of life which may be all the incentive they need going into the final day ,, mibees aye ,, mibees naw ,, but as stated ,, as long as we have it in our own hands going to Tannidice I,d fully expect Celtic to clear the final hurdle and secure the title ,, and without wishing to dwell on the sad Passing of Tommy ,, never have a Celtic side had more to play for ,, intriguing indeed Mr H ,, but heres hoping ………

  • I take on board what you are saying about Strachan Mr. H mate, but i still want the league championship more than anything and if that means he will be here next season then i wouldn’t opt for any other chose. I want to be the league victors no matter what, I wont be entirely happy he will be manager but in fairness he has made a lot up to the Supporters. However, if he were to throw it away now… that would be a different story. Hopefully he won’t. To put it simply, i would most certainly not want us to lose the league just to rid ourselves of Strachan. If he is here next year so be it. He has shown he CAN compete on the OF stage against Smith. But signings, substitutions and tactics have to improve!

  • BTW, would like to add, more than anything we want to win this title for Tommy Burns and i think i speak on behalf of every single Celtic fan when i say that. Tommy scored the winner the last time we won the League at Tannadice which is more than ironic, it seems like destiny. To see the players lift the trophy as a tribute to one of the greatest men to ever grace the game will fill my heart with more content than any other championship.

  • Fair enough re. Burns. Very strong feelings of goodwill towards the man coming from everywhere at the moment.

  • I’m not sure I fully understand the animosity towards Strachan – where exactly does it come from and what’s behind it? From the perspective of supporting a team who have had a small modicum of success recently but have had a deabcle in terms of managers, I’d give almost anything to have even a sniff at the title.

  • Sounds to me like his lack of being “Celtic-minded” (whatever that means) is his biggest problem. Although having said that, with the resources he’s had he should be winning the SPL by a mile – he wasted a lot of money on average players last summer.

  • Mr.H summed it up. Its not so much that he isn’t Celtic minded, which for the record, would be defined as someone like the great Tommy Burns who is stepped in Celtic history. It’s the fact i believe he is just a very mediocre manager. Now, my opinion is that his 1st two league championships were gifted to him. Would any neutrals agree or disagree on that? His record in the cups has been poor. He won the CIS cup in his first season but in the semis he needed a very fortunate break against Motherwell with that back pass to score a late winner. He got beat by Clyde in the Scottish cup that year also. He lost against Falkirk at CP last year on penalties. We lost this year to Aberdeen, who then got pumped by QOTS. We must have been the most fortunate team in living memory to win the TSC last year. Take the 1/4 final for example. Elvis scores an equaliser on the 90th minute and then Miller scores the winner in injury time. In the semi final we only beat St Johnstone 2-1 after one of their defenders made a mistake. And then in the final we scraped a 1-0 win over Dunfermline. Also, this year we went out of the CIS cup, again at CP to Hearts, who (no offence guys) are a poor team at the moment and certainly nowhere near the quality of the Hearts team that won the TSC in 2006. Its also added to the fact that we have been playing consistently bad football for three years. We have the seldom game where we play well, but those are few and far between. The last 16 of the CL is what i believe splits the supporters. We have now done that twice under GS which is something MON failed to do in 5 years. But then again, AML achieved the same feat with Rangers a year previously and that Rangers team were officially the worst Rangers team in history with an 11 game ?canny win? streak. One could also argue Celtic were very lucky in the CL, I think that is a fair comment. For all the bad luck MON got in the CL, Celtic seemed due to get some luck sometime, only it came when GS was the manager. Celtic had 9 points twice under MON i think, well at least once. And never qualified. Strachan has had 9 points twice and got through twice. It is also my belief that had MON taken Celtic out of the group stages in the CL he could have taken Celtic to a quarter or semi final, such was his record at home and his away record in two legged affairs.

  • RK- as a total outsider who only sees some Celtic highlights on TV, I can’t comment on the “style” of football – actually I hate that phrase, since I believe most people couldn’t actually describe in real terms what “style” of football means. Anyway, your yardstick of last minute goals and “luck” to judge the Strachan era wouldn’t hold much water with neutrals, since many believe that Celtic (and Rangers for that matter) have been benefitting from those every season since Pontius was a Pilate.

  • I agree that GS has had a LOT of luck, but what would you rather have: a lucky manager or a good one?! His luck looks set to continue this week when he wins another title, although he shouldn’t have been reliant upon luck given the poor competition that the SPL has provided this season – I think that’s probably what RK is getting at here.

  • It would be interesting to know who those Celtic fans who do not like Strachan would prefer to be in charge. I understand R.K’s comment about being steeped in Celtic history (and I would agree that Tommy Burns certainly fit that bill) but it’s increasingly hard to find anyone in the game who has had that level of “loyalty” to a single club. I suppose constant and unrivalled success brings with it a certain arrogance (in the nicest possible way!) but from the outside looking in, pretty much every fan of all other Scottish clubs would cut their b*ll*cks off (metaphorically speaking) to have even a fraction of the success of the OF.

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