Dickie Felton

I write about music and football

Glasgow Celtic embark on the new campaign with eyes on a gargantuan prize - immortality. 

Neil Lennon’s men will go all out for an unprecedented tenth league title in a row.

Such a feat has never been achieved in Scotland. 

Lennon was in his first residency as manager at Parkhead when he delivered the 2011/12 title and the Celts have been top of the tree ever since. 

Come kick-off against Hamilton on Sunday, the Hoops will have reigned supreme in Scotland for more than 3300 days.

Celtic have basked in the shine of nine once before. Jock Stein reached nine-in-a-row in a halcyon period between 1966 and 1974. 

Back then dominance domestically was eclipsed by efforts aboard. In 1967 Stein’s brand of “Pure, beautiful, inventive football” saw Celtic become the first British club to win the European Cup - defeating Inter Milan in the heat of Lisbon. 

By winning Europe’s top prize the Lisbon Lions gained god-like status.

And many supporters believe the current crop of players are on the verge of similar veneration. 

Against a backdrop of a world gripped in a health and economic crisis, more than 50000 season tickets have been snapped up. The season ticket waiting list has swelled to 17000 names. 

Such fervour is striking considering the season starts behind closed doors. And no refunds will be offered for games with the crowd excluded. 

So while the fans of yesteryear watched Billy McNeill and Jimmy Johnstone from terraces, the current generation will initially watch from tablets.

Season ticket holders must make do with a digital pass to Paradise.

Laura Dewar is one supporter who had no hesitation renewing her season ticket despite not knowing when she’ll be allowed to walk up London Road and into her seat. 

She said: “I was always going to renew. No questions. Celtic is a club founded on charity and continue to support the local community. So I am always willing to support them. 

“We are watching history in the making. Winning 10-in-a-row is up there with winning the European Cup. It will be the most significant achievement by Celtic in my lifetime.”

The Green Brigade, Celtic’s most ardent support, were singing about 10 in a row as early as 2016.

At that point the sequence of success stood at a modest five titles. Is the quest for consecutive championships an obsession? 

Dewar: “Obsession is the wrong word. It’s about being the first in history to achieve the 10. To me it's more of a challenge, players are put on the park to win the game and ultimately the season. Winning becomes the obsession.”

City rivals Rangers won nine-in-a-row between 1989 and 1997 only to be stopped by a Celtic side inspired by Henrik Larsson.  

Dewar remembers that period well: “Celtic were awful for too long during my high school days. I was at a predominantly Rangers supporting school, so it was sweet when we stopped them winning the 10.”

Hoops fan Jez Stewart, 53, shudders at this period of Rangers dominance as the Ibrox men walked away with the top prize each May. 

“I remember Celtic didn’t win a trophy of any kind for five or six years.

"During this era the only satisfaction we got was when Rangers failed.

“There was song we used to sing: ‘You think you’re great, you’ve only done eight, you’ll never do nine-in-a-row’. 

“But Rangers did reach nine and I just remember the nerves and fear around them going for the 10. But when we stopped them it was such a relief and a great joy.

“This time it’s Celtic going for the 10. But it’s not really about the number. It’s about doing something that our rivals haven’t.”

Derek Kirwan, 51, has been a season ticket holder at Celtic Park for 33 years.

He said: “Ten-in-a-row is the holy grail. But it’s purely about rivalry between Celtic and Rangers. If Celtic make it, Neil Lennon will be held almost in as high esteem as Jock Stein.” 

Across Europe two clubs are currently on par with Celtic’s nine-in-a-row: Ludogorets Razgrad and Juventus who claimed their nine on Sunday with a win against Sampdoria.

These relentless reigning champions of Bulgaria, Italy and Scotland still lag behind the world record of consecutive title wins. 

Tafea from Port Vila in Vanuatu (an island in the South Pacific) claimed 15 championships between 1994 and 2009.  

This piece first appeared in the i newspaper 1 August 2020. 

comments powered by Disqus
Morrissey International Airport

Morrissey International Airport

An account of what it means to be on the road with the last great pop star and his people.

The Day I Met Morrissey

The Day I Met Morrissey

A collection of real-life accounts from fans who for a split second found themselves in the right place at the right time