The Scottish Play Set to End For Celtic

I think it's pretty well-established over the years of my column that I have a bit of a hipster soft sport for obscure sports and obscure leagues in popular sports.

This column will be about the latter, although perhaps not as obscure as other leagues I may take up.

I've been getting into Scottish soccer lately. You already know about Celtic and perhaps Rangers, so again ... not as obscure as other leagues I might look into. 

But if you want to go just a bit off the beaten path, for a sports deep-dive, you could do worse than Scottish football, because, at least, all the meaningful coverage is in English.

You probably could do better, too. I think it's pretty well-established over the years of my column that I am a big fan of parity and surprises, and the Scottish soccer scene offers none of that.

You have to go all the way back to 1985 the last time a team other than Rangers and Celtic have been crowned Scottish champions.

That's not going to change this year.

Indeed, when Rangers went through a spell of severe financial difficulties that saw them liquidated and out of the top flight for five seasons, no one replaced them in giving Celtic a run for their money.  

And even having to start over from scratch, less than 10 years later, Rangers again is Celtic's only competitive rival.

More than competitive, for not only is Rangers 16 points clear of Celtic at this writing, but Celtic is slipping, which is the current prevailing talking point of Scottish football.

You see, with Celtic's only rival on the rebuild for so long, Celtic won an incredible 11 straight Scottish trophies: 4 straight league championships (9 straight in all) 4 Scottish FA cups, and 4 Scottish league cups.  

Winning the three most important trophies in Scottish soccer is called, as it is in other countries, "the treble." This past Sunday they were going for their fourth straight treble — a quadruple treble.  

This was because the 19-20 Scottish FA Cup final was this past Sunday, having been postponed by Covid. In the 20-21 League Cup competition, the next trophy to be awarded, Celtic has already been eliminated.

So, one way or another, the streak was going to come to an end, the question was whether it would end at 11 straight trophies, or 12, which would make that nice, tidy, quadruple treble. 

Their game was against Heart of Midlothian, commonly known simply as Hearts. Hearts has a decent history as far as non-Rangers/Celtics teams go, but had been relegated from Scotland's top flight the year before (granted, they seem a cinch to get promoted again on their first try this year).  

Celtic took a 2-0 lead into halftime. But then Hearts did something you almost never see a heavy underdog do: stage a comeback. Usually, David can only beat Goliath by building an early lead and hanging on.  But by the time the game was over, it was tied 2-2, and at the end of extra time, it was tied 3-3 with Celtic again taking the lead and Hearts again answering.

In the penalty shootout, it was Hearts taking the early advantage after their keeper stopped Celtics third penalty shot. But it was the Celtics keeper, Conor Hazard, who subsequently stopped two straight Hearts shots, and Celtic got their quadruple treble by the skin of their teeth. 

I mentioned how Celtic had already been eliminated from the next trophy competition, the League Cup. That loss happened at home against Ross County, a team languishing in last place in the top flights, 2-0 in a game where Ross County managed more shots on target than Celtic is. This was all of 24 days ago.

So yes, this is why despite completing what amounts to an unbreakable record trophy streak on Sunday, it had a bit of a swan song feel to it. This is Rangers' league, now. Again.

What do I know, though? I'm an Aberdeen fan, just like Groundskeeper Willie.

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