Last Sunday witnessed Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic wrap up what is the club’s sixth consecutive league title with an emphatic 5-0 victory over Hears, in the process making it an impressive twenty eight league games won, eighty six points on the board and another league title to add to their overflowing trophy cabinet with a staggering five games to spare. Even for the greatest critic of the Scottish top flight, such statistics are hard to argue with and for Celtic to not simply have just been successful but more importantly to charge towards a title victory in such rampant fashion, the work that Brendan Rodgers has done should therefore not go unnoticed – especially given Rony Deila’s previous feeble efforts in making Celtic the powerhouse their history suggests they should be given the wider level of competition throughout the top tier of Scottish football. Delia may well have answered his critics in meeting the obvious pre-season expectation of league title success but with regards to both the way and just how dominant Rodgers’ Celtic have proved this season, albeit with the same league title success the Bhoys have well and truly gone to another level this season and you feel their success is incredibly well deserved.
Brendan Rodgers, a man with a track record of more recently managing clubs at the top of their respective league competitions, wasn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last to publicly recognise just the gulf between the club and the opposition in the Scottish top flight. With such impressive statistics in his favour, ignoring Celtic’s dominance is incredibly difficult and whilst the imbalance between Celtic and their closest title competitors may well have been recognised in recent years, you do sense that it’s only now whereby wider fans of the sport itself, both in Scotland and much further afield, are beginning to question the current state of Scottish football. The plight of traditional close rivals Rangers and lack of sides capable of forming a realistic title challenge should is neither Celtic’s problem nor is it something Rodgers and his side will have worried about this season; focusing on their own success on the pitch is all they can do, the rest albeit of much greater concern to followers of Scottish football, is for another time and place.
Whether you view it as taboo or just that ongoing debate which rears its head time and time again each time in the past that Celtic or Rangers have grabbed the headlines because of their success, Brendan Rodgers inevitably opened a can of worms with his comments suggesting that Celtic have the potential to not only operate as an English top flight club but also to do it successfully; a genuine challenge in Rodgers’ words to the established top six clubs in the Premier League. The former Swansea City is of course no stranger to the Premier League and has for many seasons competed at the very top of the English top tier with Liverpool and was even on the cusp of a highly sought after league title victory back in 2013/14, only for club captain Steven Gerrard’s slip at a vital moment to stand in Liverpool’s way.
With his vast experience as both a manager and member of a club’s backroom staff, competing in the England against the crème de la crème of the Premier League, you do think that Rodgers is in a much more privileged and well informed position to assume Celtic truly have what it takes to be a solid and established Premier a League side in the future. And whilst his comments, no matter how and when they were made from the cold light of day to the exultation or alternatively comfortably leading his side to a sixth consecutive league title in rousing fashion, Rodgers dares to go where many top flight Scottish manager would not by simply raising the idea of a Scottish team competing in what is the English Premier League.
Is it possible? In what way would it work? Where would the likes of Celtic or Rangers start off? How will it effect the rest of both the Premier League as well as other tiers in English football? Could Celtic as Rodgers suggests compete with the top six?
With so many questions and unknowns it is clear that the possibility of Celtic’s inclusion in the English Premier League has very rarely been considered to a great extent. Toying with the idea of Celtic and Rangers at the peak of the powers perhaps a decade ago may have been much more common than in the present day but such suppositions proved nothing more than speculation with a custom made FIFA or Football Manager league the only way of ever truly imagining top flight Scottish opposition in the English Premier League. Therefore for all the questions and queries of Scottish football fans, until any genuine discussion is started between both football associations this is perhaps as we’re going to get to any kind of relationship between both leagues.
By broaching what has often been seen as a touchy subject, Rodgers at least opens up the idea of some kind of merger between both England and Scotland with many pointing to the amicable relationship and acceptance between the English Premier League and the several Welsh teams that can be found both in the top flight and also throughout the English game. From Swansea to Cardiff City, Newport County to Wrexham, to all abilities and at varying levels Welsh clubs are able to go toe to toe with English and with this in mind, why can’t Celtic, Rangers or any others for that matter follow suit in the near future?
Of course there will be a degree of scepticism as there always when it comes to fixing something that many believe isn’t broken but to many the Scottish system may well be broken to many; at least in need of some minor repairs to restore the same level of competition which it has been used to in the past. With Celtic’s glass ceiling increasing each season, albeit due to their wrongdoing, the trail of clubs struggling to keep up the pace in Scotland looks likely to continue lengthening as it has done in the last decade. For this reason, you do wonder to what benefit it is both to those limited to success because of Celtic’s dominance as well as Celtic themselves, to remain content with the current league structure and to preserve and maintain what looks increasingly an extremely disjointed setup in the Scottish top flight.
Typically Celtic, the club, it’s players and its supporters won’t care and nor should they. As every good football team should, all Brendan Rodgers and his players need to focus on is winning their games to the best of their ability in the best style possible which to their credit they have most certainly achieved last season. Although it’s not to say the Scottish top flight is a seemingly easy walk in the park for the big bhoys given Celtic haven’t always in the exact way they would have wanted, at the moment there are no genuine contended that stand out as challengers to what could yet be a sustained and lengthy period of league dominance by Celtic. And whilst they may struggle to match the feats of the current league campaign in future seasons, lifting the lid on an old suggestion after some years of being covered up could benefit Scottish football in the long run.
Nonetheless in a post-Brexit climate of high tensions, pressure and talks of division, football could well yet serve to as it often does to bring nations together – in this case through the love of football and genuine competition with all sides deserving of a level playing field therefore earning one.