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 the league comes down to one game this season – away at Ibrox – how does it go?
COYNE: We didn’t turn up at all in either game at Ibrox last season so hopefully that is something we put right this year. There was an element of the 90s with the way Celtic were bullied out of both of those games. Neil Lennon has already missed out one chance to win the league at Ibrox but I would back him and the players to get the job done. It goes like this; the Rangers take to the pitch staunched up to the gills and start like madmen. They’ll get a soft penalty and go one up but staunchness alone does not a title win. Celtic drag themselves into the game and equalise before half time through French Eddy. Ryan Christie wins it midway through the second half. Nine in a row. At Ibrox. The Union flags all dead at the top of their poles. Huns clutching pictures of Steven Gerrard pick through the rubble of their season, then pull out what’s left of their hair. 800 Celtic fans are then airlifted to safety as Paul the Tim gives it ‘the ten’ gesture.
EVANS: If the league is still truly up in the air after the split, that means that Celtic would have underachieved to an even greater extent than last season. Presumably Celtic would have dropped points in at least one of the Glasgow derbies, so the opponents would certainly be fancying their chances. The atmosphere in the city and the media in the week leading up to the game would be truly unpleasant. But the match itself would not manage to match up to the hype, and it would finish 1-1 with Celtic winning the league on goal difference.
KEARNEY: Celtic win. Celtic’s set up and performance in the last Glasgow derby of last season was particularly unimpressive but whilst games between Celtic and Rangers are never meaningless, there was little edge to it. A derby game, away from home to our biggest rivals would be the equivalent of giving Neil Lennon the best Christmas present in the world. Celtic win 2-0 with Christie and French Eddy on the scoresheet, Morelos gets sent off and caretaker manager Graeme Murty whips off his Rangers club suit to reveal a Celtic top underneath.
WALLACE: We pump them. You know why? Because we are born winners, they are worthless and have won sweet fuck all. Players like Brown, McGregor and Edouard are used to the success, their best players haven’t won a thing. Their manager hasn’t even won a league title. Fuck them.
What if, as we’re all afraid, Celtic fail to sign a right back?
COYNE: Elhamed breaks his leg in his third game or something doesn’t he? That would be pretty typical. With the sheer number of games we have then whomever his backup is could well be looking at a minimum 20 games. I have come more around to the idea of Ralston being ok against the plankton but more likely would be a more regular switch to a 3 at the back which will negate the need for Ralston’s inexperience and rashness or moving Ajer away from his best position. It’ll be an indictment of our summer transfer activity if it does come to that though, Celtic need two functional players for every position. We simply do not have that at right back at the moment.
EVANS: Hatem Elhamed has looked very decent in the game and a half he’s played and unless a much bigger signing is on the horizon you’ve got to think he’s the first choice going forward. The problem at right back, then, is the quality of the backup Anthony Ralston. He badly needs to go out on loan, but without bringing in someone capable of playing 20-25 matches at the position (think a right-sided Jonny Hayes), Ralston has to stay – and play. It wouldn’t be catastrophic to run Ralston out against the St Mirrens and the Livingstons, but it wouldn’t be ideal.
KEARNEY: Difficult. We know that Elhamed has come in now but are still expecting someone else. As unproven as Elhamed is, it looks like he is our only option with Ralston as cover. Continued league and cup dominance with little improvement made in Europe given our overall recruitment would be most likely right now.
WALLACE: We play 3 at the back. We will get hammered in Europe but that’s not what matters. We have the quality to play 3 at the back for the league. It may actually benefit us with more goals being scored and more entertaining football. I am making this sound like it will all be okay, but it won’t. @CelticFC get the right back signed.
What if Celtic could bring back any one previous player in history (at the age they were when they played for us), keeping in mind the current squad?
COYNE: Paul McStay. Ok, so the last thing we need is another midfielder but…he was just so good that if you put him into a better team then you’re talking a real game changer. A player good enough to make a difference on the European front. Prime Paul McStay is helping us get out of the Champions League group stages. I’m not sure adding, say, a Henrik to the current team would bring as much, overall, to the team. He was a player out of time. He had all the attributes that coaches try to drill into modern players and it would be magic to see him play in a more technical, less attritional type of game.
EVANS: It’s Shunsuke Nakamura, in the prime of his career at ages 27-31. Frankly, Naka could still do a job for us now at age 41. Celtic badly need a dead-ball wizard capable of scoring from anywhere within 35 yards. Celtic are more attacking-minded than we were 15 years ago, and the nature of the playing style means more set-piece opportunities. Unfortunately, Celtic have struggled mightily in that area for years, and Naka would be that X-factor to make today’s Celtic a more complete team.
KEARNEY: Danny McGrain. There’s yer right back.
WALLACE: A lot of players would be amazing. Imagine Larsson and Eddy up front. Naka and Griff on free kicks. Balde and Ajer at the back and Brown and Lambert controlling the midfield. The one player that sticks out for me though is Billy McNeil. He helped to lay the foundations for all of this success. He would organise the defence well and he could put in some tackle. He is Mr Celtic, and he deserves to be a part of hopefully another point in this clubs amazing history. The image of Caesar and Broony lifting the ten would be iconic.
What if Neil Lennon and his backroom staff go AWOL next season after celebrating 9 in a row and, due to financial cuts from building too many hotels like a Glasgow sized Monopoly game, we must make a current player the manager to seal the tenth title – who do you choose?
COYNE: I can see why Broony would be the popular, sensible choice, he’s the only choice really. So I’m plumbing for French Eddy to lead us to the 10. The reasons for this are twofold 1) If he’s the manager he can’t be sold can he? Guaranteed to stay all season and to be completely focused on his two jobs and 2) Eddy exudes an air of unassuming quiet confidence, anything that Celtic have thrown at him, he has dealt with, he gets unfair criticism already so that won’t be a problem and, well, he always delivers. The bigger the occasion the better he does, he’s just one of those guys. I’m sure he looks quality in a suit too.
EVANS: It would be Scott Brown and I’d say that even in an alternative scenario, where Lennon was abducted by aliens or Damian Duff visited the Springfield Mystery Spot and never returned. Brown is an extraordinary motivator who knows the modern Scottish game as well or better than anyone associated with the SPFL at this point, and next season would be the right time for him to put on the Celtic tracksuit and take a coaching role. Despite having to play right back himself, Broony inspires the team to miraculous levels of performances and the ten is wrapped up by Easter.
KEARNEY: Karamoko Dembele. Once he wins the ten as a player and a manager, he would then have more league titles as a player and as a manager than Steven Gerrard. Dembele in charge, Armstrong Okoflex as assistant and the son of the AWOL John Kennedy as first team coach.
WALLACE: The obvious choice is Scott Brown. I can genuinely see him becoming Celtic manager someday. He is currently doing his badges as well. He lives and breathes Celtic and he has also shown his man management on the field. He is our leader and all the players love and respect him. Also, imagine ‘The Broony’ getting done on the touchline after winning the ten.