Tuesday 8th January 2018
Myles Cutliffe – UCFB Student
An uncharacteristic shift of competitiveness has taken Scottish football by storm. The runaway train that is Rodgers’ Celtic has, for now anyway, ground to a halt. The likes of Rangers, Kilmarnock, Aberdeen and Hearts lurk impatiently behind. A heavily rotated side, due to a tightly packed schedule on multiple fronts, has seen the Bhoys suffer away from home. Suddenly, that eighth consecutive league title looks a little daunting, a revamped Rangers look ready to fight their neighbours to the bitter end.
Recent old firm victory over Celtic, for the first time since April 2016, remains fresh on the minds of both sets of supporters. A one nil score-line didn’t quite justify the extent to which Gerrard’s Rangers defused and dominated the champions. Yet controversial refereeing decisions prompted a heavily worded statement from the Celtic hierarchy. Somewhat uncharacteristic of a normally level-headed chain of command. The Celtic board seemed to lay down the suggestion that the season could be decided by refereeing mistakes – something we have not seen since before the liquidation of Rangers in 2012.
Defeat for Celtic sees just one point separate the top three. The bhoys lie in pole position, Rangers and Kilmarnock very much in close proximity. Both Glasgow sides wasted no time delving into a highly anticipated January transfer window. Rangers opt for experience with veterans Jermain Defoe and former icon Steven Davis heading to Ibrox on loan from Bournemouth and Southampton respectively. Celtic add the young attacking trio of Timothy Weah and Oliver Burke on loan from PSG and West Brom – Vakoun Issouf Bayo signs from Slovakian outfit Dunajska Streda on a four-year deal.
In the shadow of the Glaswegian main stage, the blue and white stripes of Kilmarnock fly high in the distance, remaining a feared dark horse to be reckoned with. Steve Clarke’s well set up side have shown strength and consistency throughout the season, propelling them to the top of the division. The Ayrshire outfit look ready to pounce on any old firm mishaps and make history by becoming the first non-Glaswegian team to win the league since Sir Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen side in 1985.
With Celtic still competing on three fronts including Europe, it seems increasingly unlikely that Rodgers’ side will pull away and dominate the league like they have done so many times before. This is welcome news for the neutral as the Scottish game shows it’s not just a one horse race.