One month ago, all the talk was of Celtic clinching the treble as a result of Rangers’ collapse. There was plenty of mentions of a tainted title, devaluing their impending league triumph, but the two domestic cups in their locker as well would have gone some way to ‘prove’ themselves worthy over their Ibrox rivals. That while they may have been gift-wrapped the SPL, they still had two pieces of silverware to genuinely earn.
That Celtic lost both the League Cup final to Kilmarnock, and the Scottish Cup semi to Hearts makes this season feel, to this Rangers supporter, the most pointless, valueless, and possibly least worthwhile season of his life.
To begin with, I am going to avoid the doom and gloom that has been the administration plight this year, and instead focus on the football side of affairs. Ultimately, along with the club’s survival, football itself should be the most important concept. And as such, I cannot take a single positive from this season, and neither should the SPL or Celtic.
Having been knocked out of two European tournaments in a row, our early domestic form was promising. But even a full-strength Rangers struggled in Falkirk and found itself, courtesy of a dire team display and late goalkeeping error from Neil Alexander, out of yet another cup competition – this time the League Cup. Then once Naismith picked up his fateful injury, our SPL form disintegrated as well.
With patchy form seeing the green half of the Old Firm take the domestic initiative, followed by the fatal docking of 10 points thanks to administration, the league was a write-off. There were no consolations, because on the 5th of February, around 10 days before administration began, the Ibrox men had found themselves dumped out of yet another tournament, this time the Scottish Cup. In terms of cup performances, this has been a quite foul season, with 4 cup tournaments seeing nary a whimper from Ibrox. So add to that the way the league was handed to Celtic by a literal technicality, and it all adds up to easily the most dismal, disappointing, heartbreaking and frustrating season I can recall.
This next section may sound bizarre, but in a way I almost wish Celtic had won the treble. Not because I ever desire success over there, but simply because doing so would have given a small amount of credence to the notion that they were overall the better team in Scotland. And as such, our capitulation did not entirely hand the league and cups to them on a silver platter – they had required to earn them. Sometimes, us bears have had to admit that superior Celtic teams have beaten us in the past – Martin O’Neill’s Celtic was a real force and Dick Advocaat had no answer. So an honourable defeat (overlooking the effects of administration) to a better Celtic might have made me feel a little better.
As it is, Lennon’s men did nowhere near enough against Killie and deserved their loss, and Hearts will be delighted to have overcome them in a semi final. Put simply, this Celtic are a very poor team, yet it was a season where Rangers both failed to capitalise on this (all 4 cup exits were down to the team and management alone), and were also constrained by the effects of Duff & Phelps.
This has been a monumental waste of a year of Scottish football – I am not even going to enter the political arena of the SFA and SPL and how they have run affairs. But I think my opinion of them goes without saying.
In the end, no silverware, almost certainly no Europe to look forward to next season, and as yet no buyer confirmed. It has been a quite agonising season and the sooner it is 2012/2013 and a chance to begin again, the better.