‘And that’s a wrap #6inarow’ tweeted Patrick Roberts after Celtic clinched their sixth consecutive title at Hearts on Sunday with an emphatic 5-0 win. It’s been coming for months but finally the Hoops finished the job mathematically- and in some style – at the very stadium where it all began for Brendan Rodgers. He lead his team to a 2-1 victory at Tynecastle on the opening day of the season in the Edinburgh sunshine seven months ago. The former Liverpool coach was still building the foundations for what he wanted to be a strong team both physically and mentally, one that could be dynamic and ruthlessly overpower the rest of the division.
On Sunday the Bhoys returned to the capital with the sun shining again and showed those exact qualities as they were crowned kings of the Scottish Premiership. They’ve won 28 out of 30 matches, drawing the other two. 80 points to their name and remaining undefeated with a long list of records that ensures they’ll go down in history as the one of the club’s greatest teams.
Champions again but this time it felt different, much more sweet than the triumphs of the last few years. It’s not just been a success that most fans expected but rather most have enjoyed too. This win was also richly entertaining for the supporters, of course, as it became a day that was poignant in more ways than one.
It was an open game in which both sides made fast starts, Hearts looking dangerous but the visitors equally threatening. Within the first few minutes the Celts put together a lovely passing move that was finished off by Callum McGregor but wrongly disallowed for offside. It was a sign of things to come and thereafter everything fell into place perfectly.
Celtic went into this one minus strikers Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths just as they did the last time they played the Jambos. But the outcome was the same, another thrashing handed out by the Glasgow outfit. Four goals at Parkhead in the previous meeting, five this time in an absolutely destructive display. 4-0 up by the 60th minute- courtesy of four stunning finishes – plus another two that were incorrectly ruled out. By the time Scott Sinclair dispatched a penalty to complete his hat-trick there were more travelling fans than home supporters inside the ground as the players already started their huddle celebrations.
The flow between the front players and the sharpness all around the pitch was evident early on and it was apt that two of the best performers this season stood out in this demolition. Sinclair netted three times to become the league’s top scorer this term and Stuart Armstrong added to his impressive tally from midfield. Both have been the main success stories under Rodgers’ stewardship, finally rediscovering their best form after losing so much momentum in their careers. Both took responsibility in the absence of Dembele and Griffiths and were backed up by the likes of McGregor and Roberts who were also excellent.
They relentlessly continued to hunt for more goals in the closing stages which nicely summed up their domestic campaign as a whole. They’ve failed to win just twice because of late goals conceded against Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Rangers, the League Cup is already in the trophy cabinet and the Scottish Cup could soon follow. It’s a remarkable feat to win the league having not succumbed to defeat, a testament to the players’ attitude and professionalism to keep their record intact and not ease off when they could so easily afford to.
“It typifies how they’ve been for the majority of the season – their attitude, determination, style and intensity,” Rodgers said at full-time. “We take the energy and hunger from training into games and, from a coaching perspective, that’s great to see.”
The atmosphere surrounding the club is the best it’s been for many a year, the confidence is oozing through the players and the fans have huge faith in their team again after some substandard seasons. This feels like a Champions League club again, one with ambition that is embracing every challenge it faces. Rodgers referred to this in his post-match comments stating the next step is to be more competitive in Europe’s elite club competition.
It’s hard to believe the amount of experts in the print and broadcast media who tipped Rangers for the title based on last year’s Scottish Cup semi final. The same people laughed after the defeat to Lincoln Red Imps and mocked Scott Brown’s comments about Aberdeen being the main challengers. Yet both Aberdeen and Rangers have been crushed by this dominant force and if anything has been proved, it’s that it will take years of rebuilding for the Gers to stop the green and white juggernaut.
The 5-1 Glasgow derby thrashing in September at Parkhead was the moment of realisation that it would be a matter of when and not if Celtic could lift the title. They’ve kept ticking the boxes and now the championship is secured but the mindset remains the same as the manager pointed out at the end of the 90 minutes. He told Sky Sports: “If anything the focus ramps up even more now,” as the Bhoys prepare for a Scottish Cup semi-final rematch against Rangers later this month.
An undefeated treble is in their sights but such is the mentality at the club at the moment, there could be even more to come from Rodgers and co in the coming years. “We have had many outstanding performances but we have only just begun because there’s still an awful lot of development in this team. That’s the real exciting part,” said the Northern Irishman.
This title was won in style and you wouldn’t bet against more fun times like this in the Rodgers era.