Our eighth league title in a row, our fiftieth in our history, was confirmed with victory over Aberdeen last week. It finally put us in an unassailable lead over our nearest rivals, and just in time too as we now head to their home to face them for the final time this season.
Can you imagine how this game today could have looked if the league title still want wrapped up? They would have been playing us with a terrific run of form that has seen them take maximum points since losing at Celtic Park at the end of March. They would have known that if they had beaten us then they would have taken the title race to the final day of the season for the first time since 2011 when Rangers pipped Neil Lennon’s Celtic to their final title.
Thankfully though, today is now just a formality.
A lot of talk this week had centred around how to proper display sportsmanship towards the newly crowned champions. In previous seasons, where a league has been wrapped up with games to spare it has been tradition for the next opponents to form a guard of honour and applaud the newly crowned champions onto the park.
This will not happen today.
Much has been made of the James Tavernier tweet from a few seasons ago when Alloa Athletic applauded the lower division winners onto the park. A few other tweets from the official club account have also noted the sporting nature of such a tribute.
So of course we’ve been winding them up about it. After all, this staunch club pride themselves on proper respect and dignity.
But only when it suits them.
They’ve pushed back this week, pointing out that Celtic didn’t applaud Rangers onto the park back in 2010 in the final derby of that season. They fail to point out that wasn’t the game immediately after the championship had been clinched.
They point out that Neil Lennon’s Hibernian team didn’t do it when our opponents today confirmed themselves as winning the Championship. Except that wasn’t the immediate next match either.
Whatever excuses have been pulled out, and I’m surprised the police didn’t get brought into it at some point because they love to dictate what happens around these matches, the only tribute Celtic will get today is from the stadium announcer. When they inevitably play Simply the Best, just remember which team hasn’t won a major honour in its near seven years of existence. That song can’t possibly refer to them.
The other thing we’ve had to listen to this week is exactly what this match now counts for. In terms of the title, nothing, that’s done. Assistant manager Gary McAllister reckons it’s the start of next season already, but they won’t get any points for the 2019/20 season today. By the time that season kicks off domestically, I would imagine neither team will look anything like what it does today.
The only thing they can take from today is to continue their own form, and maybe to prove that the win over us in December wasn’t just some fluke. They did play us at a time when we had a lot of games and made some bizarre team selections.
For us though, this game is about maintaining momentum ahead of the final important game of our season – the Scottish Cup final in two weeks time.
So with that in mind, we shouldn’t be taking too many risks in this game. We want to win it, yes, but not at any cost. It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of our season, it’s only really matters if you want to beat your city rivals. A win for them would give them hope for next season, a win for us and… well, you know they’ll down play it and talk about coming back stronger next season.
We earned the right to make this game meaningless.
So what do we do today? Well, don’t play anyone that is an injury worry. Sorry Kieran. Maybe give people a run out that we think might need it. Tom Rogic is getting better with each passing week so I’d definitely want to see him play.
Unfortunately this league season is apparently too soon for Leigh Griffiths. Does that mean the cup final isn’t beyond him? How sweet would it be if a Hibs fan got the treble treble winner against Hearts? Seems like another kind of fairytale for Celtic if you ask me.
But today we just want to get through it without any major injury concerns. Anything beyond that is a bonus, but in the city of Glasgow it’s nice to have bragging rights as that bonus.
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)