It started in August 2016 with a 5-0 demolition job on Motherwell in the League Cup second round and, this afternoon at Hampden Park, Celtic’s quest for an historic Quadruple Treble will come to its conclusion against Heart of Midlothian; the side against whom Celtic sealed the Treble Treble way back in May 2019.
Despite an appalling recent run of form which saw the Hoops pick up just two wins in 12 games prior to the Europa League dead rubber against Lille, Celtic will go into today’s showpiece event as favourites against Championship leaders Hearts, who now boast Celtic’s Invincible Treble winning keeper Craig Gordon amongst their ranks; a fourth successive Scottish Cup success is therefore by no means a foregone conclusion.
The lead up to the Cup Final has been far from ideal for Celtic with rumours that Neil Lennon has lost elements of the dressing room and that his relationship with coaches Kennedy and Strachan is strained to say the least. Key players have been accused of no longer playing for the manager, and supporter unrest at the mismanagement of the club over the past few months (years, perhaps) have helped to create the Perfect Storm of disarray at Celtic Park.
With Celtic now 16 points behind league leader Rangers and already of this season’s League Cup at the hands of Ross County, the delayed 2019/20 Scottish Cup Final has taken on increased importance and significance as a means of restoring pride to the club.
However, the introductions of Ismaila Soro and David Turnbull into the midfield at the expense of captain Scott Brown and Ryan Christie has revitalised Celtic in recent games, with the duo bringing much need athleticism and dynamism to the team, and offering renewed hope that all is not lost in the 10-in-a-row season.
Soro’s positional sense, ability to cover the ground, and act as an effective defensive in midfield has released Callum McGregor from his unnatural defensive shackles, pushing the playmaker into a more effective attacking position along with the forward thinking and creative Turnbull; altering the dynamic of the midfield in a positive way.
It is little surprise that the inclusion of both Soro and Turnbull in the starting eleven has coincided with an upturn in form, with Celtic recording back-to-back wins for the first time since the beginning of October. To take either out of the side for the final would be an act of folly.
Aside from Soro and Turnbull, the key to any Celtic success in the Final must be in finding a way to get the best out of Odsonne Edouard. The enigmatic young French striker has so far failed to live up to expectations this season with a return of just 5 goals in eleven appearances.
The forward, who has looked out of sorts for the most part this season, is in dire need of support in attack and has not looked entirely comfortable as the main striker in the team, preferring to drop deep in the inside left area necessitating either a central striker to play alongside him or more active runners from midfield; something that Turnbull has offered in the last couple of games.
If Celtic can show energy and dynamism in midfield and find a system to get the best out of Edouard, then the Quadruple Treble is surely on the cards.
If, on the other hand, Lennon returns to type and plays Brown out of sentiment – there can be no other reason – then a certain impetuous will be handed to the men from Gorgie. The positive energy from the previous games will be immediately removed and replaced by a slow paced and stagnant midfield, easy to pick off, and there for Hearts to have a go at.
Winning Trebles is not supposed to be easy. Celtic have won three in-a-row. To win a fourth would be a monumental achievement and one that is unlikely to ever be repeated.
Shall we witness Celtic rewrite Scottish football history once again?