Like that’s a thing.
There’s no such thing as British football, we don’t play in any British competitions, so let’s stop calling it that. It’s a Celtic record and a Scottish record.
Besides, we had two draws with Manchester City in that period, so you’ve missed a couple of you’re going to do that!
What’s that? Linfield? They’re Irish, not British. Lincoln Red Imps? Spanish. What’s that phrase again? Keep politics out of football? Yeah, let’s move on then!
Listening to HomeBhoys this week, Paul made a point that really struck a chord with me. All through the summer I was complaining about how Celtic hadn’t released the Invincibles boxset DVD and that they were missing a trick by not giving us something to do during the few weeks off that we had.
Of course, they did eventually release it in September, and despite all my complaining my copy is still in the shrink wrap!
Why’s that? Because as Paul said, I’m not ready to reflect on the achievements of this team. They’re still in the middle of them! 63 might well have beaten the domestic record last weekend, but the next game offers up the chance to make that 64 and beyond that who knows how far this team can take it.
Indeed, there’s a number of records beyond the one that’s just been set by the Celtic teams of Ronny Deila and Brendan Rodgers. The most obvious one would be Willie Maley’s Celtic and their 62 league games unbeaten. Yes, that’s the same record that’s just been beaten, but it was done thanks to League Cup and Scottish Cup victories as well. When it comes to league fixtures only, Willie Maley is still the man.
In terms of just league games, the 4-0 win over St Johnstone was the 51st match undefeated. To match Maley’s figure, Celtic will need to continue to run through another “dizzy December” and into the winter break. The first league game back after that is a trip to Partick Thistle, and that would be the 62nd league match. Reach that point undefeated and 63 would be the home match against Hibernian at the end of January.
Then of course there’s the “all competitions” record of Willie Maley’s Celtic. Our European record means that won’t be beaten, but even domestically you can get technical and include competitions that still meant something a century ago. During the 62 league game run, there were two Glasgow Cup victories as well as two Glasgow Merchants’ Charities Cup victories.
It’s worth noting these, if only because we beat Rangers 3-0 in the semi final of each tournament! Partick Thistle were beaten 2-0 in the Charities Cup final in May 1916, while Clyde went down 3-2 in the Glasgow Cup final in October 1916. So Maley’s domestic record is arguably 66 games and still stands today.
That one is of course within sight for the current Celtic team. Remain unbeaten against Ross County after the international break, and it will come down to the three games against Motherwell. Obviously winning the League Cup would need to start it off, but to reach 67 – an already magical Celtic number as we all know – we’d also need to win at Fir Park and then finally beat Motherwell at Celtic Park on December 2nd too.
Fortunately, the trip to Paris after Ross County won’t affect this one other than on a psychological and fitness level!
Both of those will be a massive challenge in themselves, but when you look at the European records they are something else again. In the late 1980s, the newly crowned European Champions, Steaua Bucharest, embarked on an undefeated league run that lasted for a whopping 104 league matches. In that time they won fifteen cup ties to take their domestic unbeaten run to 119.
They might have been the establishment team of communist Romania, and indeed the cup record is questionable given one cup final had a walk off over a disputed goal that was later awarded to Steaua, but the record is still recognised today even if the team themselves have disputes over their own name.
So, let’s dream. If Celtic managed the never before achieved back-to-back Scottish treble at the end of this season, going undefeated in the league for the second season in a row, we’d reach 77 league matches undefeated and 95 domestic games undefeated in total. So whatever happens we’ll not be catching Steaua this season.
Assuming those back-to-back undefeated trebles, Celtic would go into season 2018/19 needing to remain undefeated in a further 27 league matches to match the 104 of Steaua. We don’t know the fixtures for next season so we can’t say for certain when that would be or who it would be again. However, for reference, game 27 of the league this year is away to Kilmarnock on February 3rd. To beat it, you’re looking at game 28 which this season is the home league game against St Johnstone two weeks later on February 17th.
Yeah, St Johnstone again. Funny how their name keeps cropping up in all of this!
The 119 across all domestic competitions could be matched earlier, in the 20th league match of the season. That would seen us win a third League Cup in a row along the way, and again if you map this season to next then game 20 is the home game against Partick Thistle on December 20th.
Putting it simply, if we want to beat Steaua Bucharest’s 119 unbeaten domestic record, we need to continue to be unbeaten in domestic competition until at least Christmas NEXT year.
Let’s face it, accidents happen. If we make it to Christmas THIS year still unbeaten then we’ll be doing fantastically well. We’ve already seen this season that, as we try to keep things ticking over in three separate competitions with the Scottish Cup still to come in the new year, rotating the squad is important. And doing that can sometimes result in us not playing our best.
Yet we’ve still been getting the results for the most part.
It’s not just important for the short term either, as we want to give chances to players coming through the youth team. Nothing was quite as pleasing about the Bayern match than the fact that three of the stand out players were Kieran Tierney, James Forrest and Callum McGregor – three academy players. Anthony Ralston has been in and out of the team this season, and with other names like Mikey Johnston, Calvin Miller and Jack Aitchison having all featured during this record breaking run then I’m sure we’ll continue to see that.
As much as this record is amazing and we’re all immensely proud of it, the longer term goals are far more important. We don’t just want a winning team, we want a winning legacy. We want players who continue to develop with us, so that they can go toe to toe with Europe’s finest. If doing that means we continue to stretch away from rest of Scotland, then maybe these records will continue to tumble anyway.
Or maybe one day we don’t get the breaks, we make one too many mistakes, we face an inspired goalkeeper, or a bit of individual brilliance from an opponent, and someone in Scotland finally beats us. When that day finally comes, let’s celebrate the record whatever it may be. I’ll be as disappointed as anyone when that day comes, but on the grand scheme of things these players and this management deserve every single plaudit they can get – even when it does finally end.
There’s no doubt their place in Celtic history is already assured. I just hope the end of this particular chapter is a long, long way away yet.
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)