Following the death of Rangers, Scottish football was faced with long-term dominance by Celtic. Former Rangers players turned pundits and Rangers supporting journalists were desperately looking for a way to belittle Celtic’s achievements in these post Rangers times. Very quickly they arrived at the opinion that the league is a given and, with no Rangers, doubles lack any real value. Only a treble would make a Celtic domestic season passable. This started with Lennon and intensified with Deila. At the end of last season I heard journalists and pundits (including at least one former Celtic player) state that Ronny Deila’s first season was only OK as he’d only won two trophies. To have a good season he’d have required a treble.
The rational is fairly simple to follow (simple people need simple plans) Celtic have a budget that dwarfs the rest of the league and therefore they should be winning every trophy. Of course this ignores three basic facts. Firstly football has a greater element of luck than any other major team game determining its outcome. Secondly for all of history clubs outside Celtic & Rangers have won trophies to prevent doubles and trebles. Thirdly their shiteness does not exclude the fact that there is a club called new Rangers with a budget that also dwarfs the rest of the league. I’ll cover points one and three first.
Firstly statistically football has a greater element of luck than any other major team sport. Research has shown that the outcome of each game can be determined by around 50% luck. With 50% that is not luck but ability, over the course of a season the better team wins the league, but on a match-by-match basis luck plays a part. That is why knock-out competitions are, on a frequent basis, won by a surprise team. Luck plays a part in cup games more than any other.
On the third point, Celtic may have a budget that dwarfs 40 other clubs but one club does have a wage bill approaching Celtics. That they have been a basket case with a diddy manager for most of their existence merely illustrates that wages alone would not be how we judge the ability of teams but it is this narrative that has played out most post Rangers. The concept (rightly) that the team with a budget many times more than their nearest rival should win the most trophies has extended to the concept that the team with this budget should win everything.
From the moment this false treble narrative first got an airing I thought it was utter poppycock. Unfortunately this false narrative also demonstrates the truth that if you tell a lie often enough people will start to believe it because of late I have read and heard Celtic fans use it as a stick with which to beat Ronny. We have a better budget than the rest and therefore with no Rangers we should win everything – failure to do so is failure by the manager.
The problem with the false treble narrative is that it has one flawed assumption – that the only club between Celtic and trebles were Rangers when in the last 50 years (when Celtic have won two trophies) Rangers have prevented a treble on only 2 occasions.
The analysis has reinforced my gut feel. Prior to looking at the stats I struggled to recall many occasions when a title-winning Celtic had lost to Rangers in a cup and so the statistics prove.
Over the last 50 years when Celtic have won both the league and league cup, defeats in the Scottish cup have been as follows;
2014/15 – ICT (Semi Final)
2005/06 – Clyde (3rd Round)
1997/98 – RANGERS (SEMI)
1969/70 – Aberdeen (Final)
1967/68 – Dunfermline (1st Round)
Celtic do better in the Scottish Cup than league cup so the instances of a double of Scottish Cup and League being prevented from becoming treble seasons by a League Cup loss are greater;
2012/13 – St Mirren (Semi Final)
2006/07 – Falkirk (Quarters)
2003/04 – Hibs (Quarters)
1987/88 – Aberdeen (Quarters)
1976/77 – Aberdeen (Final)
1973/74 – Dundee (Final)
1971/72 – Partick Thistle (Final)
1970/71 – RANGERS (FINAL)
I am not saying Ronny is or isn’t a great manager, in fact this isn’t a comment on the abilities of any Celtic manager after the death of Rangers. This is to highlight that the false treble narrative has been created wholly to demean ANY domestic Celtic success post Rangers. Winning trebles is hard. We have hardly won any. Luck (injuries, form, pitches, deflections, refereeing decisions) all play a part in one-off games. The best team wins a league, lucky teams can win a cup. More importantly the concept that the death of one team should gift trebles galore to us defies history.
Over the last 50 years Celtic have been on the cusp of trebles (winning 2 of the three) on 13 occasions, managing the feat 3 times. Through good times and bad times of Scottish football only twice have they stopped converting two trophies into three by Rangers. Moreover, I would contend that during those 50 years, the biggest gulf between Celtic/Rangers and the rest has been in the last 15 years and during that time, on the 5 occasions Celtic achieved a double, not once was the team that stopped the treble Rangers.
The performances of Celtic in Europe under Ronny have been baffling, particularly when the stats show that this season is already an improvement on last domestically. The fact that some are now saying that even a treble may not be enough to keep him in a job illustrates the challenge any Celtic manager will face and also the success those peddling the false treble narrative have had in belittling Celtic’s success.
Next time you hear a pundit question the value of any trophy we win, pause, question their agenda and remember that unlike others, we really did win them on the pitch!