There have been many defining moments in Celtic’s history, and many hypothetical scenarios we’re left wondering about. In this feature, we ask our panel of writers for their take on a few of these. I’m Stephen Russell (@SJRussell23) and on the team this week we have Eoin Coyne (@toomanybigwords), Matt Evans (@SkylandsCSC), Ronan Kearney (@Kearney1085) and Stephen Wallace (@stephenwallac16).
What if Celtic lost at home to Rangers in the same manner in December – what implications would that carry?
COYNE: First things first, it would indeed be a surprise to see Rangers turn up at Celtic Park with such a cunning game plan. The closest they have come were last season’s defeats which were only by the odd goal. On the face of it that may seem like progress but a combination of luck, goalkeeping and profligate finishing also contributed heavily to the relatively close scorelines. That said, if it did happen I would expect Gerrard to be hailed as the world’s greatest manager and tactician as well as karaoke practitioner. I still think we’d win the league too.
EVANS: Very little beyond the short term. Barring something unusual, Rangers’ only hope to take the title this season was to take points off Celtic in all four meetings, while retaining last year’s record against the rest of the league. The loss in the first derby, at home no less, really put them behind the eight ball. Remember Celtic won the first and lost the second last season – in fact the two teams split the twelve points overall – and ultimately it made no difference. So unless results go against Celtic in the league between now and then, the only issue with a Hogmanay loss would be some bad feelings around the winter break and a little more pressure in the notoriously guff January transfer window.
KEARNEY: Once the disappointment of such a result subsides, the long term implications would be minimal. Having seen them up close a couple of weeks ago, they are not a good team. If they somehow managed to beat us in December, it would not matter a huge amount in terms of the league because over the course of 38 games, the best team always wins. The manner of a defeat similar to what they suffered at the hands of Eddy and co. would be disappointing for us but it would not raise the same questions for us that they have been facing these past two weeks. The response they mustered up was an unconvincing victory versus Livingston.
WALLACE: I don’t believe that it would carry many bad implications. I can’t see us dropping points between now and then so at worst we would be level on points with them. The same thing happened last year and look what happened. They don’t have the quality to last a full season at the top, so even though they might beat us once or twice a season, we will always be the champions. Here we go, ten in a fucking row.
What if you could choose between winning the league with a last minute goal or romping away with it and having it wrapped up by March?
COYNE: Romp, always romp. When trouble comes along, you must romp it. I get the appeal of the last minute winner as that hit is so sweet but carries with it the flipside risk of massive, crushing dissapointment. Romping allows for weeks and weeks of trolling and, crucially, lets our closest rivals know that, in fact, they are not making progress or gaining ground on us – demoralising them further. The closer they get, the more they’ll believe it’s coming. I don’t even want them to have hope.
EVANS: When Celtic are this close to ten, I don’t care how the league is won, I just care that it’s won. I was initially tempted to say “give me the last-minute goal, give me that immortal moment.” But aside from the stress of having the league go down to the last kick of a ball, I wouldn’t want to think that the current Celtic squad – possibly a better one than last season’s – would let us all down like that. It’d have been a real failure to even let Rangers or whoever get that close. So give me the nine by Eastertide, a celebration all spring, and a demoralised opposition going into the ten season.
KEARNEY: Wrapped up by March please. Anyone who says the treble doesn’t matter is delusional – I mean, it’s not the end of the world if we don’t do it but I want us to win everything. A gruelling Europa League campaign is not ideal with the League Cup final to be done this side of 2020 but a league wrapped up by March allows to focus on the Scottish Cup, provided we are still in it of course. We know that the Champions League qualifiers have been our downfall this past two seasons so if we can afford the likes of Callum McGregor and Eddy an earlier break than normal then that is surely worth more to us than a last minute winner.
WALLACE: On the way to the ten, I couldn’t handle a 38-game season. I would much rather have the league wrapped up and we can win the cup in the last minute. With all the media hype and Stevie G talking his usual power of shite though, it would be amazing to win the league in the last minute. Helicopter Sunday, heading for Ibrox and Jonny Hayes scores a last-minute winner to secure the league. Bliss.
What if you were offered £50m for Edouard in January?
COYNE: This is an ‘indecent proposal’ level quandry but, for me, I’ll keep my French Eddy thank you very much. January is no time to be selling your best bet of a goal and, arguably, our most talented player. £50 million is nice to have but will it warm the cockles of your heart with numerous winners in big games (rangers, europe) and that beautiful grin? Will it fuck.
EVANS: No thanks. I haven’t seen enough of Bayo to believe he’s anything close to replacing the juggernaut that is French Eddy, and I think Leigh Griffiths’ best days are likely behind him. Although Edouard will surely move one day, and Celtic are just as surely scouting the position, I don’t think January, when the Scottish season will still be in the balance, is the time for a move. £50m is an outrageous price for a Celtic player, and might represent a panic bid from a top club in desperate need. I’m a big believer that players who would be here to lift the nine would also want to be here to have a chance at the ten. So sign Eddy up for the next two seasons, sell him big then and let him leave a hunskelping hero on the best of terms.
KEARNEY: According to an article online, there are 7 things in the world that are priceless; Time, Love, Happiness, Courage, Purpose, Legacy and Intellect. The author of that article clearly hasn’t been to watch Celtic play. French Eddy goes nowhere in January. I would turn down double that for him in January. I have accepted that he will go, and it will break my heart to watch it happen, but Celtic should never sell players in January. There are too many things still to play for and you cannot bed a replacement in between January and the end of the season.
WALLACE: Absolutely not. To sell a player like that in January would be unforgivable. There is the fact that we have Griff as cover but with the league and hopefully European football after Christmas, we need Eddy more than ever. He is a game changer and it would take a summer at least to even consider replacing him.
What if you could only keep one player: Ajer, Christie or Edouard?
COYNE: This one is more ‘Sophie’s Choice’ – I’d hate to lose any of them and all have been playing so well over the past 12-18 months. Ajer is a monster at the back who’s only going to get better. French Eddy is the coolest man on the park in front of goal and Christie is like a perpetual motion machine just constantly up and down the park displaying crazy levels of fitness and intensity. In the end, I’ll go for keeping the one who I think we’d find it most difficult to replace and for me that’s Christie – an all action midfielder who can play as a 10, an 8 or even in wider attacking positions and do it really well.
EVANS: Toughest question of all. I’d go for Ajer. Celtic have found recruiting top-class centre backs juuuust a wee bit difficult over the years, so I take Big Kris because he’d be the hardest to replace. Aside from being an excellent defender, he has offensive skills as well as leadership quality that could see him wearing a captain’s armband one day. Christie and Edouard are also top-five talents at the club, but Celtic have options in Christie’s position with Rogic and Ntcham. Celtic’s backup striking options are wanting but still decent enough, and the club’s record at recruiting forwards is somewhat sunnier.
KEARNEY: Eddy. He just does things to me that only Dembele and Larsson have done to me since I have been old enough to understand what those things feel like. See when he scores, and he runs towards the fans, two arms outstretched as if to say “Look at this latest piece of magic I have given you”, I feel like no other football supporter in the world. There is a scene in “In the Name of the Father” where lawyer Gareth Peirce catches the corrupt Inspector Dixon out on a lie about an alibi provided for Gerry Conlon by an old homeless guy in the park. When it becomes apparent that Conlon is going to win, he has an expression on his face where he tries to laugh, speak, cry – all at once. That’s the closest I can get to describing what it feels like when Eddy puts the ball in the net, injured paw and all.
WALLACE: For me it would have to be Ajer. He is the rock in our defence. He is a rock in the team. He is a future captain and he is so important to the team. The same could be said about Christie, however I believe losing a centre half of Ajer’s quality would be worse than losing a midfielder of Christie’s quality. Edouard is Edouard, but he’s the 3rdworld class striker we’ve had this century, two of them being in the last 4 years. Yes we would miss him, but as a team, Celtic have always scored goals.