It took 14 seasons for Celtic to win 11 titles in the 60s and 70s, 13 under Jock Stein and one under Billy McNeill. Although Celtic were utterly dominant through the early parts of that period, they never had a structural advantage, success came through having better management and players. That alignment of the stars was always going to end.
Rangers won 11 titles in 12 seasons, as David Murray could apparently do no wrong. To the untrained eye, they looked uncatchable. They had a stadium which was compliant with the new post-Taylor Report rules and a player squad that generated income. By contrast, Celtic had 40% less income, were seldom able to generate cash from player sales and needed to build a new stadium.
Had Murray more sense, Rangers would have dominated the 21st century, but he always wanted what he couldn’t have – Celtic’s European Cup triumph – and he drove the club into the dirt. To any Celtic fan who followed their team through the 1990s, having utter ownership of this century would seem ridiculous. We were a marginalised minority on our own streets, people stopped caring, the endless pain was too much.
Martin O’Neill came in 2000 and from that moment onwards, you fancied Celtic to win every tournament. Still, despite the success at home and in Europe, we lost millions each year Martin was in charge, locked in a game of chicken with Murray’s Rangers. Chairman Brian Quinn took the brave steps of calling time on the losses. He predicted that failure to live within our means would be calamitous, more so than merely losing the odd title. Across the city, Murray doubled down. Disguised renumeration was a strategy that initially brought success, then led to liquidation, and much hilarity.
As early as January 2005, seven years before Rangers went into administration, the signs were obvious, we would lose the odd title, but this would be our Generation of Domination (some of us bought the domain name back then to put down a marker). I don’t think we can be complacent, in fact, I can see a scenario when the good times stop, but it is more likely our dominant period will extend well into its second generation.
Appreciate these days. Appreciate what we do for Scottish football, giving an edge to the cup competitions they never had, and taking truly great champions to every corner of the country.
Congratulations to Ange, Callum and the rest of the players, heroes to a man. And to the board that put the strategy in place, the outstanding recruitment, commercial, medical and research teams – success has many fathers.