League Cups come to Celtic in batches. We won our first in 1956 after a replay against Partick Thistle (revenge would be sweet for them) and retained the trophy a year later by the biggest winning margin in British final history, against Rangers (Originals). Then nothing until Jock Stein’s arrival.
Jock set the record for consecutive wins of this trophy, as Celtic took it home in his first five seasons. He went straight to setting the record for losing finals at four in a row. At that time, Celtic reached eight finals, winning only once.
Over a 23 period, between 1974 and 1997, we won it only once, a memorable final in season ’82-’83, again against the Originals. At the time, the ’97 final win over Dundee United felt significant. We were competitive in the league and won our second trophy in nine years, the league title followed six months later.
The contrast in sentiment between late 1997 and the win over Aberdeen in the early months of 2000 was vast. We traipsed out of Hampden after that game knowing we’d won a consolation prize; the league was already destined to go elsewhere. Two months later, Martin O’Neill was in charge of everything. In his inaugural season he won our third treble, taking the League Cup against Kilmarnock in what Archie Macpherson immediately named, ‘The Henrik Larsson Final’.
‘7’ was on all Celtic players shorts in the final against Dunfermline in 2006, a game played days after the death of Jimmy Johnstone. For a people communally bereaved, it was one the players needed to win.
A couple of other victories came before the arrival of Brendan Rodgers in 2016 and the start of the Quadruple Treble. A 3-0 win over Aberdeen, our 100th major trophy, set the tone for the most dominant period any club has enjoyed in Scottish football, or pretty much anywhere.
Remarkably, since 2013 Ross County are the only team to have beaten Celtic at any stage of the League Cup. First, on their way to winning the trophy in 2016 (Celtic reduced to 10 men), then in a behind closed doors fixture in 2020. Fortunately for our sakes, County are already out of the competition.