It has gone somewhat unnoticed and under the radar this week but a quick check of the Scottish Premiership table reveals a couple of surprising names at the top.
Celtic, surely? I hear you ask. Well, no. Sitting pretty in first place after 12 games are, in fact, Dundee United. A point behind in second is, of course, Celtic… Got to be, right? Well, er, actually, wrong again.
The mighty Hamilton are in second place with Celtic having to settle for third at the moment.
Now, before you think I’m going to be making a case for a shock winner of the title north of the border this season and talk enthusiastically about the demise of the Hoops, I’ll stop you right there.
Yes the table has an unfamiliar look about it and, yes, things have not quite gone as well as Celtic boss Ronny Deila would have liked so far in 2014-15 but this is no time for either the Terrors or the Accies to start celebrating finally breaking the Old Firm SPL monopoly because, sadly, unromantically and simply put, it aint gonna happen. It’s a safe verdict that a quick check of the Scottish football betting odds will back up.
So, that damning statistic that hopefully drew you in in the headline is this:
No other club, apart from Rangers or Celtic, has triumphed overall in the Scottish top flight since 1985.
That’s 29 years. Twenty-nine. A whole generation has grown up, probably got married, bought a house and is now worried about some unwelcome grey hairs as they approach their third decade since someone other than the big two from Glasgow came out on top. Aberdeen’s victory back then came during what must surely be looked back upon as a ‘golden age’ for Scottish football with the Dons also securing the title the year before, while United had won it in 1983.
However, since then, nothing. Nothing for Motherwell, Hibs, Hearts or even Inverness Caledonian Thistle to get overly excited about because, as most football fans know, the title ‘race’ in Scotland has been contested by just two horses since then and, since Rangers’ recent demise in 2012 due to financial problems, only one.
Celtic are that far ahead of the rest of the pack – both on and off the pitch – that they will eventually go on to win the title, probably in April, by a margin in excess of 10 points. And they will achieve this without ever really needing to be at their best with a squad full of some journeymen European players, a sprinkling of genuine young talent and a smattering of experienced old heads who know what it takes to see off the ‘challenge’ of other clubs to finish top. Namely, not an awful lot.
Yes, football is unpredictable at times. Celtic may even lose 1-0 at home to St Johnstone, Partick or St Mirren in January and for a brief moment other clubs might fancy their chances. Then reality will bite and normal service will be resumed.
Because normal service in Scotland means that only either Celtic and Rangers ever win the title nowadays. That damning stat proves it. Dundee United and Hamilton might be enjoying their week in the top spots but even they know it won’t last.