In Scottish Football history, no team has ever won back to back trebles. Since the League Cup was introduced in 1947 and the post-war football got up and running, only Celtic and Rangers have ever been able to win all three major domestic honours in the same season.
Rangers were first to achieve it in the 1948/49 season, while they also managed it again in 1963/64.
Celtic’s first treble will of course never be surpassed. In addition to all three major domestic honours, Jock Stein’s legends of 1966/67 also picked up the Glasgow Cup and of course the biggest prize of all – the European Cup.
Stein’s Celtic did it again in 1968/69, while Rangers picked up their third treble in 1975/76 and again in 1977/78. Two further trebles came their way in 1992/93 and 1998/99.
Celtic’s third treble followed in Martin O’Neill’s debut season in 2000/01, a remarkable achievement given the mess he inherited when he first arrived.
The final treble of Rangers 140 year history came in 2002/03, although that one will forever be tainted by the EBT scandal that rocked Scottish Football and ultimately led to the death of Rangers in 2012.
Of the seven trebles that Rangers achieved and the three that Celtic achieved before last season, only twice did either team come close to retaining it.
In 1969/70, Celtic we’re actually trying to win it all once again. Having won the League Cup for a fifth consecutive time, and the league championship for a fourth consecutive time, Celtic were ultimately foiled in the Scottish Cup final by Aberdeen while still on their way to a second European Cup final.
Or perhaps they were foiled by referee Bobby Davidson? Jock Stein certainly thought so after Aberdeen’s opener was a soft penalty, Celtic didn’t get a stonewaller at the other end and Bobby Lennox had a perfectly good goal chalked off as well!
Rangers had their chance of a double treble too though. By the time the Scottish Cup final of 1994 came around, Walter Smith’s Rangers has picked up each of the last seven trophies available. They had just wrapped up their sixth league title in a row, had the League Cup in the bag for the second year running, and were attempting to win the Scottish Cup for the third year in a row too.
All they had to do was beat perennial bridesmaids Dundee United in the final.
United had lost on each of their previous six Scottish Cup final appearances. Three times to Celtic, as well as once each to Rangers, St Mirren and Motherwell. Everyone expected Rangers to clinch it once more.
Craig Brewster had other ideas though and scored the only goal of the game to finally get the tangerine ribbons on the old trophy.
If Rodgers’ Celtic are to do what Stein’s Celtic and Smith’s Rangers couldn’t, the task today is to do something similar to what happened last season.
Beat the same team you beat in the other domestic final this season.
Last season it was Aberdeen that lost both finals to us. This season it’s Motherwell we’ll try to defeat in the Scottish Cup final having already beaten them in the League Cup final.
Remember that game? Motherwell defended well for long periods but eventually gave James Forrest too much space for the opening goal. Cedric Kipre, who should have been sent off for a horror challenge on Moussa Dembele in the first half, was then sent off for fouling Scott Sinclair inside the penalty area. Many though Sinclair went down too easily but it was still a foul and still the correct decision. Moussa Dembele scored from the spot and although Trevor Carson in the Motherwell goal kept the score down the first trophy of the season was ours.
We then played Motherwell at Fir Park the following midweek and while a Mikael Lustig own goal looked like it might end our unbeaten run, another penalty gave us the draw as Callum McGregor was bundled over in the area by Andy Rose. Correct decision once more and this time it was Sinclair who dispatched from the spot.
If those two games were tight, our third game of a week against Motherwell was far from it. A 5-1 hammering at Celtic Park ensued, with Odsonne Edouard getting a hat trick that day. Sadly injury will prevent him from having another shot at Motherwell today. James Forrest got the other two goals while Elliott Frear was the man to score for Motherwell.
The most recent game between the clubs saw another draw at Fir Park. This time Motherwell played more than half the game against Celtic with ten men after Kipre was sent off for a second time against Celtic, this time for lashing out at Scott Brow., But Motherwell stood firm and Celtic couldn’t find their way through, leaving the game goalless.
Motherwell have been tough opponents for us in three of the four games then, and despite finishing seventh in the league they’ve arguably been one of the best teams in Scotland this season. You don’t make both domestic cup finals without that!
Motherwell’s route to the final has probably been more difficult than ours. They won the Lanarkshire derby at home against Hamilton 2-0 before dispatching Dundee at Dens Park by the same scoreline. Hearts were beaten 2-1 at Fir Park before they brushed aside Aberdeen 3-0 in the semi final for the second time this season – they also knocked them out of the League Cup.
All Premiership teams then, including the runners up. Not so for us.
We beat Brechin City 5-0 but then they didn’t win a game all season in the Championship. Partick Thistle gave us our hardest game on this run as we edged them 3-2 before we then took a while to eventually beat Morton 3-0. All three games came at home. The semi final at Hampden was almost as easy as the Brechin game though as we won 4-0 against our city neighbours.
Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve met Motherwell in the Scottish Cup final. In 1930/31, Celtic won the replay 4-2 after the first game was a 2-2 draw. Jimmy McGrory scored in both games, with one goal in the original tie and two in the replay. Bertie Thomson also got a brace in the replay, while the other goal in the first match was an Allan Craig own goal.
Two years later, Celtic won the final 1-0, and again it was the legendary McGrory that scored that goal. The score line was the same in 1950-51, this time John McPhail being the difference between the two teams.
It was sixty years before the teams met in the final again, and so the most recent one is a game many of us remember well. It was Neil Lennon’s first trophy as Celtic manager and came courtesy of a long range Ki Seung Yung strike, a Steven Craigan own goal, and a Charlie Mulgrew free kick.
Motherwell will be hoping it’s fifth time lucky then as they aim to lift the trophy for the first time since 1991. If they do that, they’ll join 1970 Aberdeen and 1994 Dundee United in stopping the elusive double treble bid.
It’s possible too. This season has been one of frustration for Celtic at times. While clearly being within touching distance of a second consecutive domestic clean sweep, there’s been a feeling of disappointing performances on a number of occasions. We’ve failed to get out of second gear at times, including against Motherwell at Fir Park.
But then on almost every occasion where Celtic have actually needed to step it up, they have. Pittodrie, Ibrox, Hampden… we’ve done it before and we can do it again today. Only the recent Easter Road defeat has me concerned as the one time we failed to win when something was at stake.
And even then it set up a terrific home win title clincher the following week.
Despite two defeats and a draw after the split, I’m sure Brendan Rodgers will have the players well prepared for this final challenge of the season. I’m sure Steven Robinson will have his men prepared too, but if we’re on our game then we should have enough to overcome what is sure to be a confident and organised opponent that’s more than capable of causing us a few problems.
Let’s just hope that we’re not getting another Bobby Davidson scenario and we don’t spend eternity bemoaning the name of Kevin Clancy.
One final game this season, one final performance and an already legendary team of invincibles from last season will enter the history books once more.
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)