Sky Sports' Andy Walker: "Quite simply, Rangers have had a far superior attitude this season in comparison to Celtic. It's the end of a remarkably successful era for Celtic. But they can bounce back if the recruitment on and off the park is done properly."
Friday 12 March 2021 16:15, UK
In his latest column, Sky Sports' Andy Walker discusses Rangers' Scottish Premiership title win and the rebuild that faces Celtic, who he thinks can bounce back from a difficult season.
Congratulations to Rangers on winning the Scottish Premiership title.
Steven Gerrard, his staff, as well as his squad of players have been magnificent all season, at home and in Europe. They deserve every cheer that's coming their way and as all winners do, they will revel in it.
Sometimes there's not a lot to choose between a winner and a loser. Teams going for the title can be edged out by the slimmest of margins but not this year.
In my view, the biggest shock has not been Rangers winning the title, it's been in the margin of their victory. When the final whistle blew at Tannadice on Sunday and confirmed Rangers as champions, Celtic had drawn yet again, exactly a quarter of their 32 league games to date.
With six of them still to play, Celtic sit 20 points behind their greatest rivals and the painful reality for every fan of the club is that there has been no semblance of a title contest this season. They were never in it, never close.
Quite simply, Rangers have had a far superior attitude this season in comparison to Celtic.
I think back to Rangers 2-1 defeat to Hearts at Tynecastle in January 2020 and in the post-match press conference, Gerrard looked and sounded exasperated. He described his team as "unrecognisable" to him and highlighted eight players he thought were passengers.
A few weeks later, Hamilton shocked everyone but themselves and won 1-0 at Ibrox. For that game Gerard had recalled Alfredo Morelos after dropping him for the Tynecastle loss as punishment for his late return from a trip to Colombia.
This was a club in disarray in the early months of 2020. But the attitude and determination since then from Gerrard to improve his players and for them to listen and take on board his coaching and management has been nothing short of remarkable.
From describing his team as unrecognisable and losing at home to Hamilton, Gerrard has preached unity and togetherness and his players have bought into it and delivered.
At one point, it seemed as though Alfredo Morelos was on the verge of leaving.
The Colombian had apparently agreed terms with Lille but Rangers could not agree a fee with the French league leaders and the deal fell through. Did he go in the huff? Not a bit of it. His focus stayed strong and he scored vital goals to turn draws into wins.
In contrast, Celtic have been completely disjointed on the park and not great off it, either. As highlighted by manager Neil Lennon, some players wanted to leave in last summer's transfer window but didn't. Did some go in the huff? Absolutely. Too many players lost their focus, weren't committed and their attitude was all wrong.
But while nothing is guaranteed, there has to be hope from a Celtic point of view that a rebuild can be carried out quickly and they too can bounce back in time to compete at a much better level next season.
The first thing to do is engage with the fans. As I have said numerous times over the last few months, tell the supporters what the plans are and let them buy into it.
If the new look Celtic structure is a director of football working alongside a head coach, it can work but if that's clearly what the plan is, let the fans know. Tell them the benefits of how such a relationship can operate and flourish and put it in place as soon as possible.
Even as recently as last month I listened to Celtic's captain Scott Brown explain the outgoing chief executive was leaving it up to him to decide whether he wanted to continue playing or join the coaching staff. That is no way to lead. A new chief executive will soon be in place and if it's to be a new head coach and director of football, it's their decision on who's part of any future squad or coaching set up.
Celtic fans are not daft.
They know players like Odsonne Edouard and a few others will be gone in the summer transfer window. This is how football works for every club. Simply get as much as you can for them and trust your new set up to invest wisely again.
I admire the clear path Manchester United have set out to their fans with the appointment of John Murtough as the club's new football director and Darren Fletcher as technical director.
The roles are debatable and up for discussion as to how they will work, but for fans the bottom line is simplicity. Bring in good players and let the head coach do his job, make them effective in the team and improve those who are already there.
It's the end of a remarkably successful era for Celtic. But they can bounce back if the recruitment on and off the park is done properly.