Since 2011/12, Celtic have dominated Scottish football winning 17 trophies in the process and were closing in on nine consecutive titles when the season was suspended by the Coronavirus outbreak.
Debate rages around whether the season will be controversially declared null and void or the runaway Premiership leaders crowned champions if the campaign can’t be completed. Here, Aidan Linning looks back on the long-running battle for 10-in-a-row and considers the most likely outcome…
Celtic first set the current Scottish record of nine consecutive titles under legendary boss Jock Stein from 1965-74 before Rangers equalled it in 1997. The Hoops broke their bitter rivals’ hearts when they stopped them winning the coveted 10 on the final day of the following season.
Fast forward to 2011, Neil Lennon vowed “this is just the beginning” after losing the league to Rangers by a point in his first full season in charge. His speech foreshadowed what would become a decade of dominance for Celtic, who’re on the cusp of eclipsing the record over 20 years later.
Despite the new manager’s impassioned words, the next campaign didn’t get off to a good start for Celtic after falling 15 points behind leaders Rangers — who were going for a third title — by November. This included a 4-2 defeat in the first Old Firm match of the season but, by the turn of the year, things started to take a dramatic twist.
Rangers were in deep financial trouble and handed a 10-point deduction for entering administration in February 2012. They lost three out of their next four league games effectively ending their title challenge. Celtic, meanwhile, enjoyed a 21-game unbeaten run and won the league by 20 points. Rangers were demoted to the Third Division at the end of the season.
With Rangers now languishing in the bottom tier, Celtic were expected to dominate the league as they were the far superior team. Despite a rocky start with four teams sharing top spot until Christmas, the Hoops found form and from January onwards raced ahead of the rest, winning 12 out of 18 league games. They eventually sealed back-to-back titles with four games to spare, finishing 16 points ahead of Motherwell in second place with a 4-1 win over Inverness.
This was an impressive league campaign for Celtic, going on a 26-game unbeaten run in the league until February before suffering their only loss of the campaign — a 2-1 defeat to Aberdeen. That didn’t stop them as they finished 29 points clear of Motherwell in second place, winning the Premiership for the third year in a row with seven games to spare after a 5-1 win over Partick Thistle.
Despite achieving the earliest league win since the 1928/29 season, Lennon stood down after four years in charge at the end of the campaign and was named Bolton boss in October 2014.
Norwegian novice manager Ronny Deila promised “attacking, exciting and entertaining” football when he was appointed but got off to a slow start, winning only four out of their opening eight league matches — including a shock 1-0 defeat to Hamilton at home. They recovered and embarked on an eight-game winning streak into the new year.
From January, Celtic would go on to win 17 out of 20 matches losing only once — a 1-0 home defeat to St Johnstone. Deila’s first season would end with a league and cup double. Celtic won the league with three games to spare finishing on 92 points, 17 points ahead of Aberdeen in second place. But their Scottish Cup run ended with a 3-2 defeat in extra-time by Inverness in the semi-final.
Celtic claimed their fifth title in a row finishing 15 points ahead of Aberdeen but they were still failing to progress in cup competitions and the exciting football Deila had promised when he arrived wasn’t showing on the pitch. They would go on to lose 3-1 to Ross County in the League Cup semi-final but the final straw came after the Scottish Cup semi-final shootout defeat to lowly Rangers.
Overall, Deila’s reign as Celtic manager was disappointing. Despite securing two titles, he won only one other cup out of a possible four and performances on the pitch were uninspiring as his signings failed to shine. Deila left after just two years in charge at the end of the season.
Former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, known for possession based, fast-flowing style of play, arrived in May 2016 and with Rangers back in the top flight, the challenge was on. Celtic topped the table in spectacular fashion, beating Gers 5-1 with a hat-trick from new signing Moussa Dembele in September.
After a 2-2 draw with Inverness the following week, they would go on a 22-match winning streak, ending in March with a 1-1 draw against Rangers. Their sixth title in a row was secured with eight games to spare after a 5-0 win over Hearts in April.
They finished the season unbeaten in 47 games, racking up 106 points as they finished a massive 30 points ahead of Aberdeen in second place and 39 points clear of a returning Rangers in third. The Hoops wrapped up their Invincible Treble at the expense of Aberdeen in the cup finals.
Celtic set a new British record by November as they extended their unbeaten domestic run to 63 games before it ended at 69 after a 4-0 defeat to Hearts in the league the next month.
The seventh title in a row was secured with three games to spare with a 5-0 thumping of Rangers at home, thanks to Odsonne Edouard’s brace and goals from James Forrest, Tom Rogic and Callum McGregor. Celtic won the league by nine points ahead of Aberdeen and 12 clear of Rangers.
Both the League Cup and Scottish Cup were secured with 2-0 wins over Motherwell to complete a historic Double Treble.
Celtic splashed the cash to seal the permanent signing of Edouard from PSG with a club record £9million deal. Meanwhile, Rangers continued their quest to stop their foes by appointing a new manager well known to Rodgers — former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard. The Old Firm rivalry suddenly got a lot more intense.
The campaign started off shaky for Celtic, winning only three out of their opening six games and losing two of them. By the end of September, they were down in fourth in the table — one place ahead of Gers.
But a run of five straight wins put Celtic back on top of the league by the end of November. In the new year, they would go on an eight-game winning run without conceding and a 1-0 win over Kilmarnock in February would move them eight points clear of Rangers at the top of the table.
With the League Cup already in the bag, the Hoops were on course for an unprecedented Treble Treble but Rodgers caused shockwaves as he left to become manager of Leicester in February 2019.
Lennon stepped in as caretaker manager until the end of the season and made an instant impact. Celtic would go on to win seven out of their remaining 11 games, losing only once. A 2-1 win over Rangers at the end of March gave the Hoops a 13-point lead with seven games left to play.
Eight-in-a-row was secured with a 3-0 win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie and the Scottish Cup won with a 2-1 victory over Hearts, with a double from Edouard securing the Treble Treble.
With the first half of season neck-and-neck between Celtic and Rangers in the league, it was looking like the closest title race in years. Up until the end of December, Celtic would go on to win 17 out of 19 league games, drawing only once against Hibernian and losing once to Livingston. Rangers would win 16 out of 19, losing 2-0 to Celtic in the first Old Firm match of the season.
Gers had closed the gap to just two points after beating Celtic 2-1 in the final league game of 2019. Despite gaining the momentum, their domestic form took a dip after the winter break, winning only four league games out of 10 and losing to teams fighting against relegation.
Meanwhile, Celtic regrouped and won eight straight league games to move 13 points clear at the top of the table by the end of February. Nine-in-a-row was in their sights. But on March 13th 2020, Scottish football was suspended following the Coronavirus outbreak leaving Celtic’s bid in limbo.
On March 19th, the SPFL and SFA announced that Scottish football would remain suspended until April 30th at the earliest. With the number of Coronavirus cases still to reach its peak and the country remaining in lockdown, questions still remain on a return date. At this stage, the suspension is most likely to be extended to June or possibly July which would cause a delay to the start of the 2020/21 season. They are committed along with the other European leagues to complete the 2019/20 season when it is safe to do so which would keep Celtic’s 10-in-a-row bid alive.
Follow Aidan on Twitter @ajlinning