It might not be remembered by the readers of my column, but one month ago I wrote a piece regarding Ange Postecoglou’s first competitive match as Celtic manager. Although they lost at home to Midtjylland, I felt that the way Celtic performed overall was very positive. The style of play was different in that he allowed the full-backs, Tony Ralston and Greg Taylor, to attack like wingers when they were in possession at the back. It was a very different attacking style from Celtic but I felt that the positive and creative play that night of Ismaila Soro, Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie showed that he might be turning things around for his new club fairly quickly.
This has proved to be the case and although they ultimately went out of the Champions League and lost the first league match to Hearts, the results since then have been first class, with numerous goals being added to the picture. Eighteen goals in the last five games is an indication of how things have progressed for Celtic and they are now proving themselves to be championship contenders, even if it is very early in the season to make such an assessment. New players Joe Hart, James McCarthy, Carl Starfelt and Kyogo Furuhashi have also been added to the squad as well as the return of the now fit James Forrest and Tom Rogic. Kyogo has certainly been a first-class addition and he’s going to be a real threat to any opponents Celtic have as he’s sharp, creative and a first-class finisher.
The Europa League result and performance against AZ Alkmaar was a further indication of the improvement we are now witnessing and Postecoglou has certainly shown that he has something positive to bring to Celtic and Scottish football in general.
Rangers have bounced back too from their dismal performances against Malmo and Dundee United, so we could be seeing a real challenge developing for the title this season. Having had three defeats in a row it’s always the case that this gets treated like a ‘crisis’ when you’re one of the Old Firm. As I’ve spoken about before, Rangers have a very strong squad of players which should provide real motivation for those playing regularly to perform at their best every week. Steven Gerrard was obviously aware of this after the defeats and decided to give other squad players an opportunity to show what they can do against Dunfermline. These changes have lifted Rangers again and provided they continue this improved form against Ross County and Alashkert in the second leg next week then I expect the players will be going all out to hold their places for the forthcoming Old Firm match.
It would be really amusing having an Old Firm match which many already see as a crucial league title challenge, when neither team is actually top of the league. I know there’s a long way to go but it’s good to see that Hearts, Hibs and Aberdeen have started the campaign with full points which see them currently sitting above Celtic and Rangers in the table. This changes with Hearts and Aberdeen playing tomorrow. However, both Hearts and Hibs have matches on the day previous to the Old Firm match so they could certainly be above them when this game is played and could possibly be in a position where the winner of the Old Firm game still won’t match them for points. There’s a long way to go in the league with only two games being played but I believe that the current top five of Hearts, Hibernian, Aberdeen, Celtic and Rangers will still be there after 38 games. Dundee United are currently in sixth place and they will have a challenge from St Johnstone, Motherwell and possibly St Mirren for this position. It’s a tough challenge for the smaller provincial clubs to achieve a top six position but there are many important factors that can determine how this is achieved with luck being a major element.
AND ANOTHER THING
Charles Green was ranting this week in his podcast interview with Richard Keys. He was very strong in claiming he wrongly encountered negativity during his tenure as owner of Rangers. One aspect of his interview which I couldn’t believe was that he a real go at Allan McGregor and Steven Davis. He said they were both a disgrace for walking out on Rangers in 2012 when the club were put down in League 2. He said this was shameful and therefore, neither should have been welcomed back to the club. I can’t agree with this at all. The club were put down to League 2 because of their financial position. These players had nothing to do with that and moved on to continue their careers at the highest level. Any player would have done the same and considering they have come back to the club and performed admirably to help Rangers establish themselves again at the top of Scottish football, they are deserving of legendary status.