WHAT do Celtic have to do in order to secure their bid to win an eighth successful Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership league title?
The obvious answer is, of course, to win as many games as possible, but the how, is a little more complicated.
At home at Celtic Park, the Hoops are a force to be reckoned with. Their home ground is their fortress citadel as far as the league is concerned, and they have won all of their seven home fixtures to date. But it is their away form that is letting them down.
The Bhoys have lost three of their away games. They went down 1-0 to Hearts, 2-1 to Kilmarnock and 2-0 to Hibs. Had they at least drawn these games they would be flying high and well on the way to league title number eight.
As it stands, they are a point ahead of Rangers with a game in hand, but unless they can improve their away form, their title bid will be far from easy.
Even if they do manage to improve their away form and take that eighth title in a row is that enough? Top teams need European football to stake their place in the rankings and that is something that has eluded manager Brendan Rodgers time after time. Perhaps it’s about time Celtic change manager?
The Northern Irishman has had a good innings at Celtic Park. Since taking over, he has led them to back-to-back trebles and in his first year he oversaw them going unbeaten in the league. He also presided over qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League two years on the trot. But it’s that failure to get through to the knock-outs that really rankles with fans.
It’s not only the fans who are desperate to improve their team’s European credentials, but the club’s owners, too. Progressing to and through the knock-outs in the Champions League brings in vast amounts of extra revenue; money that can build a gulf between them and their rivals and open up the way for big transfers. After all, nothing breeds success like success – right?
Being dumped out of the Champions League is a bitter pill for fans to have to swallow. It’s not just that which is causing and undertow of unrest; it’s also the fact that the Old Enemy (Rangers) are enjoying something of a comeback under the new manager Steven Gerrard.
It doesn’t go unnoticed that the pressure is on Mr Rodgers. He has already made some hints that he is unhappy with the lack of money being made available for new signings. He has reportedly gone so far as to intimate he could look for pastures new if money is not forthcoming. But as we said earlier, success breeds success, and failure to qualify for the knockouts in Europe isn’t success.
It could be why the funds have been held back
Despite having brought reignited club loyalty in the short term from a supporter’s point of view, his former track record in the English Premiership doesn’t bode well. His happy start could well be about to stall and having rebuilt his tarnished reputation since joining Celtic as manager; he may decide to opt out while it is still intact.
Given his short but relatively successful managerial tenure at Celtic Park, he is unlikely to be sacked by chairman Ian Bankier – unlike being in the sack race in the EPL, the latest casualty of which is Jose Mourinho.
Don’t expect him to go now – especially as there is a real prospect of an eighth title in the offing, but come the end of the season, who knows?