On 20 May 2016 Celtic appointed former Swansea and Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. The rest is history. Obviously it was not that simple, but in Scottish football over recent years Celtic have been completely dominant. The appointment of a highly rated manager just indicated that the Glaswegian club would move even further ahead of the chasing pack.
Unsurprisingly the announcement of Rodgers lead to high quality players becoming open to a move to Celtic Park. Rodgers used his Liverpool connection to bring experienced center-back Kolo Toure to the club. While he is in the twilight of his career Toure transferred years of experience at the top level of English football further north to the Bhoys squad. Another inspired signing was that of Scott Sinclair who Rodgers had also worked with before. In Wales Rodgers utilised Sinclair when he was in charge of Swansea. Rodgers has been given credit from Sinclair at reigniting his love for the game this season. Possibly more exciting than any other signing for the Celtic fans Rodgers brought exciting French striker Moussa Dembele to the squad. Dembele had been creating a name for himself in the English Championship with Fulham.
Celtic’s domestic campaign has been a successful one. Rodgers and Celtic hit the ground running with a streak of four wins on the bounce when the season commenced. An away draw followed at Inverness, Celtic conceded in the 89th minute. In the league this feeling of disappointment would not be one that Celtic would have to deal with very often. After the draw Celtic went on a staggering 22 game winning run. Over this period Celtic managed 56 goals, which is over two goals a game. The remaining 11 games of the season went smoothly for Celtic. Three draws and seven wins completed a league campaign which saw Celtic win 34 games, draw four and not lose a single game.
The domestic cups have also gone to plan for Rodgers. They lifted the Scottish League Cup back in November. On the run they saw off their two closest rivals in the semi’s (Rangers) and the final (Aberdeen). They are looking to take the same route to success in the Scottish Cup. They dealt with Rangers in the semi-final. They won the Old Firm derby semi-final 2-0 and will now face Aberdeen in the final. Lifting this trophy would see a completely unbeaten domestic campaign.
The question is should Celtic expect anything less? Celtic have lifted the league title in each of the last six seasons. This means that since the league was re-branded to the Scottish Premiership no other team has won the league. Truly a dominant period for the Hoops. They are now creeping up on Rangers in terms of all time success in the league. Rangers sit at the top of the rankings with 54 league triumphs and Celtic have now won 48. If they were to have another period of absolute control in the league they would be level with their fierce rivals.
Rodgers has produced a better performance in the domestic cup trophies at Celtic. In the same six year period as their league dominance Celtic have won four out of a possible 12 cup honours. Given their success in this period in terms of league success this return in cup competitions may be seen as a failure. This seasons cup competitions have brought Rodgers more joy and Celtic fans will hope it continues.
It has not been all success for the Scottish champions. There efforts in Europe have highlighted the problem with Scottish football in general. On the big stage they cannot compete. Celtic battled into the group phase but were dealt a cruel blow with the draw. Well you could call it unlucky or you could argue that they just do not reach the required standard on the bigger stage of the Champions League. Celtic were placed in a group against Borussia Monchengladbach, Manchester City and Barcelona. Two draws with City and a draw against their German opponents in the group was as good as it got. The mood was set for their European campaign on match day one when Barcelona put seven past them in the Camp Nou.
Rodgers, the Celtic players and their fans will look back on this season as a success. Maybe even more a historic one if they can clinch a domestic treble in the Scottish Cup. Going unbeaten throughout a season is an achievement by anybodies standards and criticism of the league and their opposition will not take that away. In the long term they must look to do better in Europe. They must improve their squad and help drag Scottish football up to the next level. They are the best side in the country by some distance at the moment and have a superb manager who has high standards. Celtic can pave the way for a new era of Scottish football. And with Rodgers in charge it is looking possible.