A little over one hundred years ago, on April 14th 1917, Willie Maley’s Celtic reached 62 league matches undefeated with a 1-0 win away to Hibernian. It had been a year and a half since any team had beaten Celtic, dating back to November 13th 1915 and a 2-0 defeat away to Hearts.
In among those results were forty nine wins and thirteen draws, scoring one hundred and twenty six goals while conceding just sixteen! Perhaps most remarkably of all was a 6-0 win at home to Raith Rovers and a 2-0 win away to Motherwell on April 15th 1916 – two wins in one day!
In an era before European football was considered, and indeed Europe was at war and so the Scottish Cup was on hiatus, that 62 game unbeaten record was set across all available competitions – the Scottish League.
Well, actually, there were two Glasgow Cup victories during that run as well. A 3-0 win over Rangers in the semi final, and a 3-2 win over Clyde in the final. But despite it being a serious competition back then, it’s always omitted from this statistic.
The all competitions record stands to this day, and with European football entering the fray in the 1950s it has become increasingly difficult to match. The current Celtic team reached 42 games unbeaten across all competitions before losing away to Astana, six short of Benfica’s 48 between 1963 and 1965, the best record since European Football was introduced. Real Madrid recently hit 40 games undefeated before they lost a match to Sevilla back in January.
But domestically we are now within just a single game of matching the achievements of Maley’s Celtic a century ago. Simply avoid defeat against Kilmarnock this afternoon and it will be 62 domestic games undefeated.
Just as an aside, it would also mean 50 league games undefeated. So from that perspective we’d still be 12 games short! It just depends what version of the record you’re looking at.
However, I don’t wish to alarm anyone, but do you know which team ended Willie Maley’s run back on April 21st 1917? Kilmarnock, with a 2-0 win at Celtic Park. Funny how these things work out, isn’t it?
Mind you, the run started with a 2-0 win over Kilmarnock at Celtic Park as well. Depending on today’s result, that symmetry might be worth noting again in our next domestic game given it’s away to St Johnstone – the last place we lost!
Today’s Kilmarnock should be an interesting prospect. Celtic beat Lee McCulloch’s side 5-0 in the League Cup back in early August at Celtic Park, and then 2-0 at Rugby Park eleven days later. However, Elbows McCulloch is no longer in charge of Kilmarnock.
Having watched his new side win 2-0 from the Firhill stand at the weekend, Steve Clarke took charge for the first time at Ibrox in midweek. Trailing 1-0 in second half injury time and facing a penalty for the home side, many would have been forgive for assuming it was game over.
But no one could have predicted a sending off for the home side, then the penalty being missed, then Chris Burke equalising at the other end almost immediately afterwards! You couldn’t make that up!
If that was a tough test for Clarke to start with, there can be no tougher ask in Scottish football at the moment. Celtic proved in midweek they could lift their game when necessary to expertly end Aberdeen’s unbeaten league run and go three points clear at the top of the table. Although the team selection today might have one eye on Tuesday night’s big European match, you would still imagine Celtic will be experienced enough to continue the unbeaten run and ideally pick up all three points.
Mind you, the points we’ve dropped so far this season have all come at home. Hopefully that’s another thing we’ll look to improve on today.
But it’s worth noting what a difference Clarke has already made to Kilmarnock. Just being at Firhill on Saturday was enough to see Kilmarnock get their first win of the season, and the point at Ibrox means they’ve already more than doubled their points tally for the season. They’re still eleventh in the table, ahead of Partick Thistle on goal difference, so Clarke has a lot of work ahead of him but you can already believe he has what it takes to get them out of danger.
Hopefully not starting today though!
It’s also worth noting that, by some bizarre coincidence, Kilmarnock are yet again the visitors for the annual Green Brigade foodbank drive. Twice before they’ve been the team we’ve faced during a foodbank drive – not always the one organised by the Green Brigade right enough – while many volunteers have gathered up the impressive tonnes of necessities kindly donated by all who visit Celtic Park.
Collection points can be found at either end of Janefield Street, as well as the main collection point of the Kerrydale Clover just off the Celtic Way. Anything you can give will be gratefully received and will be put to much needed use.
Before anyone gets too excited about the potential of today’s record equalling, avoiding defeat today would only be equaling our own club and country domestic record. Amazingly, we’re still 57 games short of the world record held by Steaua Bucharest.
Between 1986 and 1989, Steaua went on a remarkable run of 104 league matches without defeat. Throw in 15 Cup victories in that same period and the three-in-a-row double winners notched up an amazing 119 domestic games in a row without defeat.
And before anyone questions the standard of Romanian football, it’s worth noting that same Steaua side won the European Cup right at the start of this run in 1986 and also made the semi final in 1988 and the final in 1989. Nae mugs then.
Who knows, another game without defeat today and anything is possible. We might get to this point next year and be within touching distance of Steaua’s record. Or we could finally have been defeated, it’s always possible.
One game at a time though.
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)