Did Celtic fans miss their rivals this season?

By Chris McLaughlinSenior Football Reporter, BBC Scotland
Interview - A selection of Celtic fans

The clear-up operation is under way in Glasgow's east end following yet another title party.

Celtic's 44th, to be precise, and a championship win will always lead to a celebration, no matter what the circumstances under which it was earned.

However, this year the road sweepers employed by Glasgow City Council will probably not be filling in their overtime sheets.

The drinks will flow and the singing will be loud but the roads around Celtic Park will not be covered with confetti.

This time, something is not quite right.

The history books will show Celtic as champions, but the absence of their greatest rivals has turned the usual two-horse race into a one-team show that has subsequently left the title fizz a little bit on the flat side.

Rangers' financial meltdown and liquidation forced the club to start again in the Third Division and left the race for the Scottish Premier League title entirely predictable.

It also left the Celtic manager, Neil Lennon, in a no-win situation.

The fans would accept nothing less than a convincing campaign and, in the main, Lennon delivered it.

Sure, there were stutters and blips, defeats and dramas - but the Irishman kept his side on course domestically, whilst providing a Champions League campaign few of the club's fans will ever forget.

Wins over Barcelona and Spartak Moscow provided incredible highs for the supporters who were facing the first season in the club's history without the lure of a Rangers fixture.

The European glory nights returned to Celtic Park and provided a form of interest-substitute for the thrill-of-the-chase that was lacking at home.

But when the Champions League dream ended in defeat to Juventus in Turin, attention turned back to domestic matters.

Understandably, the league could not replicate the excitement provided by the European rollercoaster that the Celtic fans had only recently clambered off.

The merry-go-round of the SPL was all that remained, and everyone knew there would be no surprises in store.

Home attendances started to fall, and some Celtic fans began to whisper that maybe - just maybe - there was something missing after all.

That something was Celtic's greatest rivals and the thrill of the Old Firm joust.

Old Firm
Did Celtic fans miss Old Firm games this season?

Springtime in the SPL title race is usually when questions are asked about which club will hold their nerve until the end of the season.

It can be nip and tuck for some, and often - right around now - those in charge of our beloved game are estimating the cost of the helicopter that may be required to scramble the trophy from one end of the country to the other on a final day of drama.

However, this year, the helicopter had nowhere to go - and it may be grounded for a few years to come.

Fans from clubs outside of the Old Firm may argue that the season has provided some extra excitement with the ongoing fight for European qualification slots.

It has, and the Scottish Cup has also delivered in terms of drama, but where the title race is concerned, the SPL has been bereft of its traditional buzz.

Few fans would admit it, but watching Celtic wrap up the league title in a stadium with more than a few empty seats would have been unthinkable just two years ago.

And so it was against Inverness.

The worrying reality will not have gone unnoticed by those seeking to sell tickets for Celtic's title party on Saturday 11 May, which may well have the same flat feel for at least another two more seasons.


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