Quadruple Treble: Part 1: 2016/17 Invincibles

To win one Treble is hard enough – Celtic had only won three in their entire history prior to the 2016/17 season – but to win four in succession is quite simply remarkable, and a first in world football.

When Brendan Rodgers was unveiled as the new Celtic manager in May 2016 few, if anyone, could have predicted the period of unrivalled and unparalleled success that would follow over the next four years.

RODGERS REVOLUTION

While history may not always reflect kindly on Brendan Rodgers following his acrimonious departure from the club in February 2019, it is impossible not to recognise the role that the Northern Irishman played in kick-starting the Quadruple Treble.

In appointing Rodgers – who had taken Liverpool to within a Steven Gerrard slip of their first League title in over 25 years – as successor to Ronny Deila, the Celtic board showed a rare glimpse of matching the ambitions of the Celtic support.  Finally, the club had a high-profile manager, intent on playing attractive football and giving youth a chance.

Despite getting off to the worst possible start, an embarrassing defeat away to Lincoln Red Imps, the part-timers from Gibraltar, in Champions League Qualifying, the 2016/17 season would go down as one of the most memorable in Celtic’s illustrious history for all the right reasons.

Playing a dynamic possession based game, Celtic would sweep all before them in domestic football, completing the season as unbeaten Invincibles, recording 43 victories in 47 games, scoring 134 goals in the process, and winning the league by a 30 point margin with 8 games to spare.

Summer signings Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair would go on to play starring roles throughout the season, while another future Quadruple Treble hero, Kristoffer Ajer, would also be added to the squad at the start of the 2016/17 season.

TROPHY NUMBER 1 – SCOTTISH LEAGUE CUP 2016/17

After seeing off Motherwell (5-0), Alloa (2-0), and Rangers (1-0) it was left to Aberdeen to stand in the way of Brendan Rodgers and his first trophy as Celtic manager, as the clubs met at Hampden on 27th November 2016 in the final of the Scottish League Cup.

Remarkably, Celtic progressed through the entire competition without conceding a single goal and the highlight of the run to Hampden was no doubt Moussa Dembele’s late back-heel winner through the legs of Rangers keeper Matt Gilks in the semi-final – the only goal the keeper would concede in his 5 appearances for the Ibrox club.

The final itself was a one-sided affair as goals from Tom Rogic, James Forrest and Moussa Dembele secured the trophy for the 16th time in Celtic’s history as Aberdeen were dispatched with ease.

TROPHY NUMBER 2 – 6 IN-A-ROW

 

In a record-breaking campaign, Celtic ran away with the title accumulating 106 points along the way and securing a sixth successive league trophy with 8 games still to play.

After dropping two points away to Inverness in matchday 5, Celtic would go on a 22-game winning streak that came to end against Rangers at Celtic Park following a 1-1 draw in the third Glasgow Derby of the season.

By that point, after 28 games of the season, Celtic had already mustered an unbelievable 80 points and held a 25-point lead over nearest challengers Aberdeen.

While disappointing, the draw against Rangers only delayed the inevitable and the title was duly delivered at the start of April after a 5-0 rout of Hearts at Tynecastle.  It was a fitting venue for Celtic to wrap up their sixth consecutive league title having started the campaign with a 2-1 victory at the same venue.

It was also fitting that Scott Sinclair, who had scored the last gasp winner on his debut on the opening day, should seal the title winning success with his first Celtic hattrick.  The Englishman, signed from Aston Villa in the summer, was instrumental in Celtic’s success throughout the whole campaign; scoring 21 times in the league – including 6 in his first 6 league games – and assisting on numerous occasions as he proved a constant threat on the left-hand side of the Celtic attack.

Following the Hearts game, points were dropped in draws against Partick Thistle and Ross County, however, normal service was resumed with a second 5-1 demolition job on Rangers for the season, this time at Ibrox.

A final game of the season victory against Hearts sealed an unbeaten League campaign; the first in Scottish top-flight football since in the late 19th Century.

TROPHY NUMBER 3 – SCOTTISH CUP 2016/17 – THE INVINCIBLES

The final leg of the Treble to be completed was the Scottish Cup.  Following the earlier capture of the League Cup, Celtic set out on their Scottish Cup adventures against Albion Rovers, overcoming their stubborn opposition 3-0 at the Excelsior Stadium.

Victories over Inverness (6-0) and St. Mirren (4-1) – a game in which Celtic conceded the first domestic Cup goal of Rodgers reign – saw Celtic progress to another semi-final meeting with Rangers.

As with the League Cup semi-final, Celtic emerged victorious over their city rivals, this time by a 2-0 margin thanks to goals from Callum McGregor and Scott Sinclair; such was Celtic’s dominance of the game, however, that the score line could, and should, have been a lot heavier.

In a case of unusual similarity, not only did Celtic meet the same semi-final opponents in both Cup competitions, they also faced the same opponents in both finals, Aberdeen.

On 27th May 2017, it wasn’t just a Treble that was on the line for Celtic, but an Invincible Treble; as if achieving a Treble wasn’t hard enough.

9 minutes in Jonny Hayes – who would later sign for Celtic – swept the Dons in front, putting a dent in Celtic’s Treble ambitions.  But not for long, as two minutes later a crisp Stuart Armstrong strike would restore parity and bring the Hoops level.

As the clock wore on past the 90-minute mark and into injury time the ball fell to Tom Rogic midway inside the Aberdeen half.  The Aussie drove forward slicing through the Aberdeen defence before beating Joe Lewis at his near post to clinch the Invincible Treble.

It’s a JFK moment for Celtic fans, “Where were you when the Invincible Treble was won?”

For thousands, that answer is at Hampden Park.  For many more it’s a pub or house with friends and family.

For me; I was standing the in the fan zone outside the Bozsik Stadion – home to Budapest Honved –  watching the last few minutes of the season unfold on a stream on my phone, mobile data going through the roof, before going inside to watch the Hungarian NB1 title decider.

Never has a goal been celebrated as joyously in that fan zone before or since.

 

What are your abiding memories of that historic season?

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