What If? European Cup | Rangers | Scotland | Glasgow derby

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), Andy Gorman (@andygorman94) and Ronan Kearney (@Kearney1085).

What if Celtic had never won the European Cup – would things be any different now?

COYNE: I honestly don’t think the ethos around the club would be the same, that win is so important – it defined the brilliance of the Jock Stein team and Celtic’s greatest ever team. Beating the very best Europe has to offer and winning the premier European trophy. Even now its significance can’t really be understated. Assuming this would mean Celtic were twice-beaten European cup finalists as well as our later UEFA cup defeat would paint a very different picture. It would still be our most revered team but I think a certain amount of the magic would be lost. A good reminder to never take it for granted.

EVANS: Undoubtedly. That Lisbon Lions squad made the footballing world sit up and take notice. The glory days of Inter’s catenaccio system, the scourge of the beautiful game, came to a screeching halt on 25 May 1967, never to return. The Ajax teams of the early 70s took the creative attacking seeds that Jock Stein had sown to turn them into gold, and the rest is history. Without that triumph, Celtic would have been merely a footnote in European competition, and more importantly, would be lacking a historical touchstone for modern fans to hold onto and pass the stories down to future generations.

GORMAN: We’re part of a pretty exclusive club in regards to European Cup winners. It definitely makes you proud as a fan when you see Celtic’s name beside the likes of AC Milan and Barcelona. It makes us all feel we belong in the competition. Without that star above the crest, the unique, romantic element  that envelops Celtic would definitely diminish.

KEARNEY: Yes I think it would be totally different. There would be no star on the jersey, no statues (or at least not as many) in front of the stadium, no talk of how clubs like ours belong in the European Cup. Our unique selling point has always been the Lisbon Lions. It is what our history is built upon. The story is known far and wide and is one of the most romantic stories left in a game that has turned into big business, an industry where romance and sentiment have been replaced with naming rights and agent fees. Our European Cup win is something that my own father told me about and like countless others, I can only wish I was around for it. 

What if Rangers were never caught cheating – would Celtic still have completed a treble treble and have won 8 consecutive titles?

COYNE: I like to think they’d have financially imploded anyway, but it does raise an interesting series of questions. In the case of an ever-present Rangers do we still take the Deila gamble? Either way I don’t see us winning 8 in a row. We have  been poor enough in individual seasons when Rangers were having their little tour of the lower leagues to suggest that a competent rival could have caused us trouble. I’d still have backed us to have won the majority of the leagues though and at least one treble. Success, but not as comprehensive as the last eight seasons have been, overall.

EVANS: At the risk of being That Guy, I’d argue that Rangers were never caught cheating at all – their liquidation and new-club reformation at the bottom of the tier was the consequence of running a business very, very poorly, not a penalty for their widespread malfeasance. Now that I’ve got that off my chest, the answer is that no, Celtic would probably not have won eight in a row or a treble-treble. The league and cup titles would have continued to change hands between Glasgow clubs, as they did in the 15 years between Rangers’ financially doped nine in a row and their liquidation. The biggest loser in this situation would be Aberdeen, but as they are perennial losers I don’t think it would have made much difference.

GORMAN: Definitely not. Until the 16/17 season, we had only ever won three trebles in our whole history, now we’ve doubled that in three years! While completing a treble treble, we scored 33 goal against Rangers. I don’t think the former incarnation, with significant financial doping, would have been so easy to beat.

KEARNEY: No. In the ten years preceding their demise, Celtic won 6 titles and Rangers won 4. If they had never been found out to be the corrupt, tax-dodging, cheating bastards that they were, then it is logical to expect that they would have been much more of a threat than they were post-death. Have a look at their starting XI from the league cup semi final in 2015 when Ronny Deila was in the Celtic dugout – Simonsen, Foster, McCulloch, McGregor, Wallace, Aird, Law, Black, Hutton, Smith, Miller – it is a who’s who of shite. 

What if you could poach any one player from any other team in Scotland on a 4 year deal, who would it be and why?

COYNE: There’s not exactly an abundance of riches to choose from here so I’ll plumb for Greg Taylor of Kilmarnock. We badly need a left-back, he’s young and a proven talent for domestic games. You just then have to hope he has the aptitude to step up to European football but he has some international experience so hopefully it’s not too much of a culture shock. 

EVANS: God help me, but it’s James Tavernier. Celtic desperately need a fullback and despite some defensive limitations, Tavernier is probably the most complete fullback in the league. His scoring record is vastly inflated by penalties, but his industry and ability to put in a cross are obvious. He also has some leadership qualities; whatever you think about Steven Gerrard as a manager he was no slouch as a player, and wouldn’t put the captain’s armband on anyone who didn’t have some guts.

GORMAN: Has to be David Turnbull. That saga was the catalyst for another disaster of a transfer window. With his contribution to Motherwell last season and impressive review on the patreon podcast, I think he would be a great addition to an array of midfielders we have at the club. But can he play LB?

KEARNEY: Alfredo Morelos. Just picture it. Wee Alfredo signs for us on deadline day and we instantly weaken our nearest rivals by robbing them of their most prolific goalscorer. A creaking Jermain Defoe can’t play all of their games so their goals dry up. Gerrard gets sacked as the good ship Rangers runs aground at Hamilton. Celtic go on to win 9, 10, 11 and 12 in a row in Alfredo’s time at the club. He does not play one minute of football for us though as he is fucked into the reserves where he belongs. Not even a sniff of Glasgow Cup action as he is not, and will never be good enough, to wear the same shirt that actual goalscoring supremos once wore. Prick. 

What if you were offered a guaranteed win in every league game this season against Rangers but on the condition that both cups must go to them?

COYNE: Pass. I could never, in good conscience, offer up a trophy to them. What needs to happen is we need to be far more proactive in those games this season. We were awful in both Ibrox games last season and the second home fixture was way too close for any game against ten men. If the league looks like it might be a little weaker overall this season then those games will take on added significance – granted – but giving up a bona fide trophy for 3 league points you may well drop the following week against Motherwell? Can’t be doing with it.

EVANS: Right now I’d absolutely take that deal. How many trebles can you win? Do they even matter anymore? Barely anyone was there against Dunfermline as the treble streak was on the line. No, right now it’s all hands on deck for nine in a row, and I would even sign up to lose a Europa League campaign in order to focus on getting our shit together and being able to beat Rangers consistently again. Further buttressing my opinion is that I’m positive a Rangers fan would rather have the league and beating Celtic than the Scottish or League Cup.

GORMAN: With how this season is going? I think any chance to take three points off them will be crucial to winning nine in a row. Would be a shame to miss out on the Scottish Cup party though. I’ve grown quite fond of them.

KEARNEY: Take. All day long. To make use of a popular phrase, winning cups is for wee guys. Winning leagues is for shaggers. 

If you have any situations that you’d like to put to our future panels, let us know in the comments below or alternatively on Twitter @90MinuteCynic or @SJRussell23. Thanks for reading.



Despite growing up, and now studying, in England, Celtic have always been a huge part of my life. I first watched the team with my dad; I fell in love and then there was no turning back. Torn between a statistically enhanced footballing style and a good, old-fashioned get-it-in-the-mixer-and-score style.


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