Seventh Heaven

Sometimes it’s good just to take a step back and think about where we are right now.

Seven domestic honours in a row. A team that hasn’t known cup defeat since losing a penalty shootout more than two and a half years ago. A manager who has won every trophy he has played for in Scotland. It’s absolutely staggering.

I’ve mentioned many times before but I’m of an age where I grew up through the barren years of the 1990s. My earliest football memories involve signing Polish players after being stabbed in the back by one of own, losing to Aberdeen in penalties in a cup final, and Scotland playing at the World Cup in Italy.

No, really, that actually used to happen. I’m serious! I know younger readers might not believe it, but it really did happen back then. Aberdeen really did beat us in a cup final!

That meant that my formative years saw me attend school when Rangers would win everything. That seven in a row that we’ve just equalled happened at the time I was going from primary to secondary school. And my school was full of Rangers fans, so you can imagine I had every single one of their successes rubbed into me.

And why I thanked Craig Brewster in my blog at the weekend.

It’s not as if Celtic were even the team who were likely to stop Rangers winning them. We were never the runner up!

We lost to them in the semi final of the Scottish Cup in 1991/92 and finished third on the league that year. In 1992/93, we lost to Aberdeen in the semi final of the league cup, again finished third in the league, and lost to Falkirk in the Scottish Cup fourth round. The 1993/94 season saw us lose to Rangers in the league cup semi final, finish fourth in the league, and lose to Motherwell in the Scottish Cup third round.

This is why my first football strips were an Italia 90 Scotland jersey and… and an Aberdeen jersey. Anyone by Rangers caused a few confusions back then!

The first trophy I remember Celtic winning is the Tennents Sixes in 1992. Tommy Burns finally ended our six year wait for a trophy with the Scottish Cup in 1995, and that was the first time I could truly remember Celtic winning a major honour. The League Cup final earlier that season that we lost was our first final since we had lost to Rangers in the 1990/91 League Cup final.

Thinking of all of this made me realise that it took me over a decade to see Celtic win seven trophies. From my early memories in late 1989, after the Joe Miller cup final which I don’t remember, the first trophy didn’t come until 1995. Wim Jansen stopping the ten was the third after also picking up the League Cup that season, and Kenny Dalglish supplied the fourth as interim manager.

It took Martin O’Neill winning the treble to take the total I could remember to seven. And yet here is Brendan Rodgers hitting that same total in the lifetime of my daughter who isn’t even two and a half yet. She hasn’t known a world of anything other than Celtic victories!

So with the seventh trophy of the Brendan Rodgers era at Celtic, it’s time to focus once more on winning eight in a row. Not only is it eight league titles in a row, it’s now also eight domestic trophies in a row that we’re going for in the league.

As predicted, we were overtaken at the weekend as Hearts were beaten by a woeful offside decision. We’re now a point off the top spot, although we have played a game less as we were busy winning a trophy – the only one you can win at this time of year. We’re not even half way through the league season yet!

It could change again tonight. There’s a full fixture list to play, and with Aberdeen visiting the league leaders they’ll be keen to bounce back from their defeat on Sunday by beating the team they knocked out in the semi final to get there.

But that’s just something to check on. We have our own concerns as we travel to Fir Park to face Jekyll and Hyde FC.

In the last couple of weeks, Motherwell have thumped Aberdeen 3-0 and lost 2-0 to Livingston. Before the international break they were hammered 7-1 at Ibrox, although a red card and a penalty in that game didn’t really help with that scoreline.

Despite not really seeming to play that badly this season, Motherwell are sitting in ninth place, just one point ahead of Hamilton. If St Mirren and Dundee get their act together they could very easily be dragged into a relegation battle.

So you can imagine they’ll be looking to recapture their form of last season, starting with causing us problems at Fir Park.

On our last visit there in March, we only managed a 0-0 draw. That’s despite Cedric Cipre being sent off towards the end of the first half. Our other trip there last season was also a draw, but it was nearly even worse. A Mikael Lustig own goal looked like it might lose us out long unbeaten record, but thankfully a clumsy foul on Callum McGregor let Scott Sinclair level it late on from the penalty spot.

True, we beat Motherwell in both cup finals last season and also gave them a 5-1 hammering at Celtic Park, but at Fir Park we’ve found it difficult for quite a while. Our last win there was in the invincible treble season, in that memorable 4-3 victory where we came from 2-0 down and 3-2 down to get the late winner through Tom Rogic.

So what can we expect tonight? Well, with a lot of tough games ahead and already a few tough games behind us, we might see a few changes to freshen things up. Scott Brown was back to lift the cup with Mikael Lustig, and Olivier Ntcham is also waiting in the wings. Jozo Simunovic came on for the injured Dedryck Boyata and unfortunately the news is that his hamstring injury will see him out for the next few weeks. That’s a real blow as we could have done with home for not just our crucial Europa League game next midweek but more than just that too!

Leigh Griffiths will also be patiently waiting for his chance to get a start up front while Odsonne Edouard might finally be due a rest. And what of Cup hero Ryan Christie? Can you rest someone in his form? If not, where does Callum McGregor go if we bring in Brown and Ntcham? Out wide go give Scott Sinclair or James Forrest a rest? What about Tom Rogic?

Kieran Tierney might be another to get a rest. We did bring Emilio Izaguirre back for that very reason after all! Fir Park is where Izzy began his Celtic career, but it’s also where he was hooked in the first half of that 4-3 game!

There’s no let up in December, and even though this will be a tough match we have even tougher games to come. Kilmarnock are flying high, we have to get something from Salzburg, a visit to Easter Road is even more difficult than Fir Park when you look at last season’s results… and it won’t stop there. We have to visit Pittodrie and Ibrox too before the month is out!

We have to somehow manage our way through this busy and difficult period without dropping too much and without exhausting our players either. This is where Brendan Rodgers will see the strength or weakness of his squad. Injuries haven’t helped up us, but neither did the summer transfer window. Winning the league cup only papered over that crack, we still need to get to January before we can do anything about it properly.

Let’s hope we can get there without it costing us too much ground in the league. Preferably without it costing us any!

Krys (Twitter @krys1888)

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