Monday, July 15, 2024

Celtic pulled off Miracle on Janefield St to win the title after booing Santa

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WHEN the final whistle blew and the job was done, it felt like all their Christmases had come at once.

Yet it only seems like yesterday since Santa Claus himself was being booed off the Parkhead pitch.

Brendan Rodgers has led Celtic to the title againCredit: Kenny Ramsay
Just five months ago, raging Celtic fans were BOOING Santa ClausCredit: Kenny Ramsay
The Hoops have had the beating of Rangers all seasonCredit: Alamy
15.04.2024 Kilmarnock v Celtic, SPFL Cinch Premiership ………………………. CELTIC CELEBRATECredit: Kenny Ramsay

Remember that slice of cinnamon-spiced weirdness?

The second-last Saturday in December, when he waddled out with green and white trimmings around his big red suit, a rosy-cheeked special guest invited to make the half-time draw?

But when, instead of a Paradise Windfall, the poor guy got a tsunami of abuse from a crowd in no mood for goodwill to men, women, children or dugs in the street?

You won’t find that little cameo in any official club video of what turned into a third straight Premiership triumph and a 12th in 13 years.

But for anyone who was there that day, when the only sack they cared about was the one taking their board to the dump, it will go down as a watershed moment. A proper low. A repressed memory of how things might have panned out.

At the end of a traumatic seven days when they’d lost at Kilmarnock for the second time in four months then finished bottom of their Champions League group, Celtic were 2-0 down to Hearts.

And as the stadium teetered the width of a freshly-painted touchline away from full-on mutiny, Brendan Rodgers found himself very much on the Naughty List.

In fact, let’s not kid ourselves.

For huge swathes of this  campaign, a pretty major chunk of the Hoops support wouldn’t have chipped in to buy him an Oor Wullie annual and a box of Matchmakers as a festive gift.

Never mind Santa coming down the chimney, they were convinced all their hopes were going up the lum in a pall of smoke.

Inside Celtic stars’ wild dressing room celebrations as the title champagne flows at Rugby Park

If history’s written by the winners, though, then the paper and pen belong to the man who risked so much when he returned for his second spell in charge last summer.

Because despite that miserable day at home to the Jambos, despite the recriminations of a 2-0 defeat at Tynecastle next time they met, despite those plastic performances on Rugby Park’s astro, despite snore-a-thon home draws against St Johnstone and Hibs and scrambled points away to Motherwell and Aberdeen, he delivered.

He won the league. Again.

That he did it with a team who were, at times, bang average and,  at other times, rank rotten?

Well, the record books don’t show that bit.

Years from now, you won’t Google season 2023/24 and see an asterisk beside Celtic’s points total indicating they got away with one.

Fact is, Rodgers and his players got the job done.

And thanks to the strange, binary bubble they exist within, they even restored themselves as heroes in the eyes of those same supporters who’d booed Santa — by turning  up when it mattered most, in four Old Firm clashes.

Two wins at home, a win and a draw across the city. Those are the results that decided the league. Those are the results Rodgers was always going to be judged on.

Ask Philippe Clement.

He can claim all he likes that there isn’t really that much between Glasgow’s rivals, he can argue till he’s light blue in the face that he got more of a tune out of Rangers than most thought possible after the state Michael Beale left them in.

But check the record books again and they’ll show that in each of three goes at Celtic, his team found themselves 2-0 down before they kicked a ball and ended up  scrambling one measly point.

That’s the story of this title race, right there.

One where Celtic weren’t very good in a pile of games against Hearts and Killie and Motherwell, St Johnstone and Hibs and Aberdeen, but got away with it because they were still miles ahead of Rangers when the pair went toe-to-toe.

There were times along the way when they looked to be in proper self-destruct mode, like that Sunday in early March when they came home from Gorgie with their tails between their legs, having blown the chance to return to the top in the wake of Rangers losing at home to Motherwell the previous day.

Even in those four pivotal Old Firm games, there were spells when their fans must have torn their hair out at how hard the players made it for themselves.

In both home clashes, they were two ahead and cruising when the visitors went down to ten men, yet both times they ended up defending desperately, out on their feet and panic-stricken.

It might take a roomful of sports shrinks to get to the bottom of why that was.

Or then again, maybe it’s simply a case that they weren’t as good as previous Hoops sides at putting wounded animals out of their  misery. Last time under Rodgers, 2-0 against ten men would have mushroomed into five or six.

Even with ten men, as they were at Tynecastle in March, you’d have put good money on past Celtic outfits to pull together and create something special.

This time? That special something, that killer instinct, that never-say-die attitude, it was, well, it felt diluted. That’s what disappointed and  disillusioned their fans — and, you’d guess, it’s what would privately  have disappointed their manager.

There were so many days when this Celtic team were there for the taking, so many days when they played like they’d forgotten what it was like to enjoy football, so many days when they just about got there and no more.

But that’s the thing. Whatever anyone says about this season, that’s what Brendan Rodgers can point right back at.

The fact that they DID get there.

Read more on the Scottish Sun

And when it comes right down to it, what else is winning a title about?

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