I take a very slow breath. The idea that Rangers have finally overcome being the second biggest team in Glasgow has just been presented as a pitch in the Glasgow Guardian contributors’ meeting, following a weekend where Celtic lost against Livingstone, as well as conceding the top spot of the Scottish Premiership to Rangers for the first time this season. The shouts of “We are the Peeeepul” and “55 incoming” ring in the back of my head after witnessing the whole of Old Firm Twitter erupt as the blue side of the city lose the plot thinking the title is coming back to Ibrox. I think to myself… this is my chance to be the neighbourhood hero. Just like Peter Parker, he worked for a paper. I could be… Spiderbhoy? Doesn’t really work. However, I raise my hand and take the article. I was going to be a saboteur.
There’s nothing worse than being a fan of either team of the Glasgow divide and standing in the freezing away end and watching your beloved side, who in both cases are up there with the biggest clubs in the world, lose to (no disrespect to Livingstone) a team more famous for having loads of roundabouts near them than the actual club itself. As I left the Tony Macaroni Stadium (*sigh*) and, refusing to make eye contact with Kris Boyd in the Sky Sports Studio who understandably had a massive grin on his face, I contemplated the threat of Rangers who had just taken our top spot in the league. The first reaction by any staunch Celtic fan is always that the world has ended; Rangers have won the league, as well as every single winnable trophy in football, under new SFA rules every team in Scotland must play in Red, Blue and White, and Govan is the new capital of Scotland. However, after that first wave of depression and humiliation is over, I realise that this has happened every single year since Rangers have entered the top division – Mark Warburton, Pedro Caixinha, Graham Murty and Steven Gerrard. There was a point during every single season over the last three and a half seasons that Celtic had a slight hiccup and a section of Rangers fans hailed their leader as the Messiah and believed that he would be the man to bring “55” back to Ibrox. What happened to all of these leaders? Failure. And for three out of four of them: sacked.
I am more than happy to concede the idea that Stevie G has been Rangers’ most effective manager since coming up and has been the only team that has taken points and really actually challenged the champions, bringing an attractive style of football to Ibrox. However, as I write this, Celtic have just pushed back on top by goal difference and don’t look like they’re going to move from that top spot anytime soon. On paper, Rangers are incredibly close to Celtic, and it may go right to the wire, but I really do believe that Rangers – for the time being – don’t have the players and resources to win the title. The reason I believe that Celtic have won every single of the last nine domestic trophies available, and have had an advantage over every team in the country, is simply because of the quality and depth of their squad. They could be struggling to score a goal and then bring on Rogic, Sinclair and Ntcham, who all individually could be considered the best player for all other 11 teams in the league. Compare that to Stewart (Birmingham reject), Barker (iffy at Preston) and Halliday (no comment needed), and there’s only one answer to which side has the stronger bench.
Celtic and Rangers will both be hoping to play over 60 matches this season, due to three domestic competitions and both sides doing well in Europe. It’s safe to say that the same 11 players won’t be starting every game, and back-up squad members will play such a major role on the outcome of the 2019/20 season. It’s also an undoubted fact that Rangers’ full squad is nowhere the level of Celtic’s, and that will cost Rangers the title. Rangers do have a fantastic chance of winning a trophy this season, possibly the upcoming Scottish League Cup final between the two sides – but I’m willing to put myself in the firing line and say that Rangers will not win the title this season. And that’s a totally unbiased opinion…