John Greig said his biggest regret in football was being handed the European Cup Winners’ Cup trophy in a dressing room and not in front of fans. What should have been an iconic moment, with images forever displayed on walls, was little more than an afterthought.
Chances are, at some point today, you, me, Neil Lennon, Scott Brown and the rest of the players will receive a text message, “9 in a row, official”, we will do our best to celebrate the moment, but it should not have been like this. The occasion had the making of our most endearing memories as Celtic supporters, and for that, there is regret, we missed out. For once only, Scott Brown will know how John Greig felt.
Nine-in-a-row has been filled with fabulous memories created by some of the greatest ever Celtic teams. For me, it started as we followed the live within our means strategy I always held dear, while ominously acknowledging the threat of four-in-a-row from the spendaholics.
When we were three goals down at Rugby Park in October 2011 that threat felt all too real. Without a double from Anthony Stokes and a third from Charlie Mulgrew, or even Paul Heffernan’s open goal chance to win the game for the home side on 88 minutes, so much of what followed could have been different.
It took over eight years for that feeling of doom to return. Our domination was never in threat, but history was. 29 December 2019 will remain in Celtic fans’ memory for longer than it probably deserves. That was the date a feeling that we might be in trouble returned. We have every chance of winning our fourth consecutive treble and you would not be against us doing the same again next season, but although we didn’t know it at the time, the title destiny was out of our hands after the players left Celtic Park on the end of a 1-2 defeat.
A lot of CQN’ers who were here for the start of this run are no longer with us. I made an offhand comment to one of that number in 2012, saying, ‘Celtic will never lose another league title in your lifetime’. I regretted this, as it was meant as a flippant take on our comparative position in Scottish football, not on our own mortality. But here we are, growing older with Celtic’s dominance, if anything, more secure than ever. That flippant comment remains valid for an untold number of us.
You, your parents or your grandparents may have celebrated a European Cup win and nine-in-a-row first time around, but Celtic’s position in 1974, when we first won nine, was significantly weaker than it is today. Today, it feels like we are ready to kick on to another level.
When the news comes, remember the struggles of getting here, not just the hard years during the 90s, but the years of loss under ‘prudent’ [solvent]spending plans. As a Celtic supporter, you suffered the defeats, the lost trophies and their divisive consequences. You deserve your chance to celebrate nine-in-a-row and a crack at 10 next season.