It’s not often that one game very early in a season can cast a huge shadow over an entire campaign and have a significant impact not only on the two teams involved in the match but on several other sides two. In fact around half the Scottish Premiership have reason to remember that result fondly or conversely it’s a game that probably gives those involved with a few clubs ongoing nightmares.
The two teams badly impacted by the game in question are Dundee United and theRangers. Both in their evaluations of their current position in the Scottish Premiership see that result as significant and a cause of their worsening position.
The match itself took place at Tannadice Park, Dundee during the August Bank Holiday weekend last year. On Sunday 28 August Ange Postecoglou’s Scottish Champions stepped off the team bus, ironically enough supplied by theRangers Chairman’s transport business Parks of Hamilton, and it would have taken an expert in casino betting to predict what would happen next.
After a slow start – the match was very close with Celtic having a 1-0 lead after 40 minutes thanks to Kyogo. Then the Scottish Champions found their top gear and the goals started to fly in. Eight more in total, Kyogo scored two more to completed his hat-trick, Jota, Josip Juranovic and Carl Starfelt all scored and Liel Abada matched his Japanese teammate in scoring three times in an incredible match that ended Dundee United 0 Celtic 9.
Fast forward to today and that huge result is causing Dundee United significant problem as they struggle to maintain their Scottish Premiership status. The team that finishes bottom is relegated from the Scottish Premiership while the second bottom side has to take part in a play-off final against the winners of a mini knockout tournament that takes place among the sides finishing 2nd to 5th in the Scottish Championship. The winner of that plays the side that finished second bottom in the Scottish Premiership.
After the results of the midweek round of fixtures two clubs have 20 points – Dundee United and Motherwell but the Fir Park side have a goal difference of -9 while Dundee United’s is -15. So that 9-0 thrashing from Celtic last August is a significant factor in the Arabs being rock bottom in the Scottish Premiership as things currently stand.
It’s not a two club relegation battle though, in fact there are at least two more in the mix with some others including an Aberdeen side in disarray who could have valid reasons to be fearful. Ross County earned a point at home to Hibs on Tuesday evening and that moved them up to 10th spot in the league, one point ahead of Motherwell and Dundee United.
Derek McInnes brought Kilmarnock up from the Championship as Champions last season and currently the former Aberdeen manager has the Rugby Park side sitting in 9th place on 23 points after their 1-0 win over Dundee United last night.
St Johnstone also won at Motherwell last night and that gives them a four points cushion over Kilmarnock with the McDiarmid Park side sitting in relative safety of 27 points. Aberdeen lost again last night, this time to St Mirren at Pittodrie and they are currently manageress after Jim Goodwin was sacked last weekend following a 6-0 hammering against Hibs at Easter Road, that coming just days after the last club to defeat Real Madrid in a European Final were humiliated by 6th tier junior side Darvel in the Scottish Cup fourth round.
Aberdeen came back from the break for the World Cup in third position in the league but have been in freefall since then. But the 29 points total they have at the moment should be enough to keep them up, although few of their supporters would currently bet on it.
So if Dundee United are rock bottom on goal difference they certainly have reason to recall that sunny afternoon last August with great distain and regret. That’s also the case for the team sitting in second spot in the Scottish Premiership, theRangers. Having fallen 9 points behind Celtic in the title race by the time domestic football paused for the World Cup in Qatar, the Ibrox club sacked the manager who won them the Scottish Cup last season, for the first time in the short history of the football club, and remarkably also took them to a penalty shoot-out in the Europa Cup Final in Seville against Eintracht Frankfurt.
The former Barcelona midfielder Giovanni van Bronckhorst was sacked and replaced by QPR manager Mick Beale, who since play resumed on 19 December has managed to match Celtic for points but not eat into their huge goal difference advantage, with the biggest single contributor to Celtic’s plus 57 goal difference being that 9-0 win in August against Dundee United.
Beale’s problem is as follows. His goal difference is plus 34 that’s 23 goals behind Celtic and with just 14 games remaining that is effectively as good as an extra point for Ange Postecolgou and his Celtic side.
There are still two Glasgow Derbies to be played in the Scottish Premiership this season. The most recent one was at Ibrox on 2 January 2023 when the sides shared the points in a 2-2 draw. That kept Celtic nine points clear at the top of the league and meant that Beale now needed favours from other clubs in the league. With Celtic only dropping points in that draw with theRangers and in a 2-0 defeat away to St Mirren last September, it would seem unlikely that Celtic would not only lose to theRangers twice but also drop points in at least two other games to allow Beale a sniff at the title, that’s if his side can win all their remaining games.
Mathematically it’s not impossible but that 9-0 result at Tannadice certainly does the current manager of theRangers no favours as despite their decent form he has been unable to reduce Celtic’s points advantage and indeed has seen his goal difference deficit to Celtic increase since he took charge.