Scot­land treble for Celtic’s invincibles

World Soccer - - Contents - Phil Gor­don

Invincibles: the word adorned the out­side of Celtic Park on May 27 when Bren­dan Rodgers’ side re­turned home af­ter their 2-1 Scot­tish Cup Fi­nal vic­tory over Aberdeen at Ham­p­den Park.

Tom Rogic’s win­ner had not just se­cured the treble – adding to the Premier­ship and League Cup – it sealed Celtic’s un­beaten do­mes­tic record.

No Scot­tish side had ever done that. Not even Jock Stein’s Celtic, whose 1967 Euro­pean Cup suc­cess against In­ter­nazionale had of­fered in­spi­ra­tion for Rodgers’ play­ers.

The Glasgow club cel­e­brated the 50th an­niver­sary of that epic day in Lisbon with singer Rod Ste­wart and 13,000 fans laud­ing the re­main­ing mem­bers of the team at the city’s Hy­dro Arena.

The “Lisbon Li­ons”, as they were dubbed, were the first north­ern Euro­pean side to lift the tro­phy. A team of 11 Scots, four have now died, while match-win­ner Ste­vie Chalmers and cap­tain Billy McNeill could not at­tend the trib­ute be­cause they have de­men­tia.

If Celtic were ex­pected to win their sixth ti­tle in a row when Rodgers re­placed Ronny Deila last sum­mer, no one en­vis­aged the cam­paign which un­folded.

Just the third man­ager in Celtic’s his­tory – af­ter Stein in 1967 and 1969, and Martin O’Neill in 2001 – to de­liver a treble, Rodgers side man­aged a record points to­tal of 106, while 106 goals were ev­i­dence of their flair. While Celtic and Rangers can both claim an un­beaten league sea­son, in 1897-98 and 1898-99 re­spec­tively, those were just 18 matches.

This, in the mod­ern era, was a com­pletely different feat. Neil Len­non’s Celtic, who won the dou­ble in 2013 and reached the last 16 of the Cham­pi­ons League, lost to Kil­marnock four days af­ter beat­ing Barcelona and also lost the League Cup Fi­nal to the same op­po­nent.

Not even the Stein sides could man­age it. Even though the Lisbon Li­ons won a do­mes­tic treble when they won the Euro­pean Cup, they lost twice in the league to Dundee United in 1966-67 – who, in­ci­den­tally, also beat Barcelona home and away that sea­son to knock the Spa­niards out of Europe.

Rodgers’ ar­rival in­jected a fresh surge of en­thu­si­asm among sup­port­ers and the North­ern Ir­ish­man also per­suaded Scott Sin­clair, Moussa Dem­bele and Kolo Toure to swap Eng­land for Scot­land.

The sign­ing of Sin­clair from As­ton Villa for £3.5mil­lion was shrewd and the winger redis­cov­ered the form he had shown un­der Rodgers when at Swansea City, while Dem­bele was the top scorer with 32 goals.

But, es­sen­tially, Rodgers trans­formed the play­ers he in­her­ited from Deila. The League Cup was se­cured in Novem­ber with a 3-0 win over Aberdeen in the Fi­nal, and a 5-1 thrash­ing of Rangers at home, matched by a 5-1 rout at Ibrox, un­der­lined the power and style of the new Rodgers era.

“It’s a huge honour to be men­tioned in the same sen­tence as Jock Stein and Martin O’Neill,” said Rodgers. “I told the play­ers be­fore the Fi­nal to think about the Lisbon Li­ons. I told them no one would write about us un­less they won.”

Skip­per... Scott Brown

Treble...Bren­dan Rodgers af­ter the Cup Fi­nal win

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