With Celtic well placed to take the treble, we can reflect on another successful season. There will, however, always be that niggling voice when the celebrations have died down, the hangovers are no more than a throbbing memory and thoughts turn to next season. That voice has been around for years, and it hasn’t changed its tune for almost as long. Good though it is, it would be all the sweeter if we were pushed harder.
Though it does not look like it’s going to change anytime soon, the Sevco-owned Rangers look like they’ll be fighting for second for the foreseeable future, and no one else is looking like they have the heart or the depth to maintain a sustained challenge. So, what are the alternatives? We will consistently hear of two whenever this debate raises its head on an at least annual basis. The first of those is the need for Celtic to perform on a European level. One-off results have flattered but ultimately, proved worthless, and while we can decry the lack of money washing about on a domestic level, the same can’t be said for the Champions League, despite our poor showing.
The second alternative is us joining the EPL or at least heading down south, even if it means starting in the Championship to placate those wanting to feed at England’s top table. That is not going to happen. The sooner everyone accepts that the better for us all. However, there is a third alternative; one that is rarely mentioned and seems eminently more plausible. Celtic could join the FA Cup.
But for any change to occur, they need to have the full backing from parties on both sides because that is where the move to the EPL will always fall. Self-interest will kick in, and people south of the border will see Celtic as both a threat to their success and to their slice of the monetary pie.
The FA Cup, however, is a different animal entirely. This season sees Chelsea and Manchester United in the final – with bookmakers unable to split them. With both managers desperate to get some silverware in to offset an otherwise disappointing season, it has lifted the profile of this season’s competition. There is no getting away from the fact though that the FA Cup is not seen in anywhere near the same way as it was a decade or so ago, which is likely down to the increased prestige of the Champions League. It is also because anyone near the top of the EPL is focussed on getting in the top four and remaining there while everyone else is equally desperate not to fall out the trapdoor at the bottom. Other priorities play second fiddle.
If Celtic were to compete in the FA Cup, all three parties (Celtic, the FA and the remaining teams competing in the Scottish Cup) would benefit. We will get to go head to head with teams from all tiers down south, which brings added interest into the ailing competition, and for those clubs in Scotland, there is an opportunity to win and path into Europe.
Also, there is a lot less disruption. It is something that can be tried on a trial or single season basis, without the massive infrastructural changes that would be required with teams being parachuted into the league system. The more you think about it, the more this probably seems like a good idea. It would give our team an extra challenge, one that can only help in our aim of improving our performances in the Champions League, which is the hardest challenge in our way, but also the most rewarding and profitable one.