BRENDAN RODGERS arrived at a gloriously sunny Celtic Park on 20 May 2016. The Irishman was greeted by a crowd over over 13,000 in the main stand and spilling over to the stands behind the goals. It really was a beautiful day as the spectacle grew and Brendan, supported by Leigh Griffiths, changed Celtic immediately.
However, it was a month before that date the wheels began to move for Rodgers’ arrival at Celtic. In a complete contrast from the scenes of jubilation as Rodgers arrived and all that he has achieved in his time at the club, a downbeat Ronny Deila addressed the press confirming that he’d leave Celtic at the end of the season.
The decision by the Norwegian to resign came on the back of a Scottish Cup semi-final draw then losing on penalties the Championship side the Rangers. Under the grey skies of Glasgow’s south side, the Premiership leaders battled their lower league opponents for a place in the Scottish Cup final as the game tumbled towards extra time.
Regulation time ended 1-1 after Erik Sviatchenko’s header cancelled out Kenny Miller’s opener. The game was a mis-match as Celtic peppered the Rangers goal with 33 shots, 10 on target to Rangers’ 9 to 3. Despite this, Rangers dominated possession and Mark Warburton’s side took the lead through Barrie McKay before Tom Rogic struck to take the game to penalties.
Celtic failed in their attempts to take the lead through Callum McGregor and Scott Brown in the shoot out but it would be Tom Rogic that missed the vital penalty sending Rangers to the final.
Of those to miss penalties and to suffer heartache at Hampden, McGregor, Brown and Rogic were criticised in the press after missing but the years since Hampden have allowed redemption from that day.
Callum McGregor used Celtic’s second Scottish Cup meeting with this Rangers to dispense his revenge by curling a wonderfully worked goal into Wes Foderingham’s net. The helpless Englishman stranded as he watched McGregor’s placed shot with the inside of his left ripple the Hampden net. The goalie wisnae doin’ anything Tom, as McGregor simply passed the ball into his net.
The image of Tom Rogic distraught after blazing the ball over the bar was plastered over the newspapers and social media in the aftermath of that horrible game. However, it would soon be replaced by a truly historic image as late drama in last season’s Scottish Cup Final ensured an Invincible Treble. The Australian scored the winner in May 2017 after gliding between the Dons players and fired the ball into the net sparking unforgettable scenes. The new image of Rogic at Hampden for me is holding the badge, reeling off in celebration.
Meanwhile, since Scott Brown’s below par performance that miserable day, he has gone to another level. Dominating performances in Scotland and Europe, the midfielder has kept himself fit and maintained a stranglehold over midfields around the country. The opportunity to become the first treble treble winning captain has driven Brown on. The image of Broony wielding the Scottish Cup for the last two seasons, together with two league cup triumphs is synonymous with the club in recent years.
Since that horrible day in April 2016, Celtic have gone from strength to strength that has seen 7 trophies won and more to come, a 69 game unbeaten run and an Invincible season. The heartache of that day at Hampden, has been replaced by joyous memories as Celtic have been victories on their last ten visits to the national stadium, including two semi final victories over the Rangers. The 2016 Scottish Cup no longer is remembered for that painful defeat, it is remembered for Hibs remarkable win in injury time.
And Hibs remain the last side in Scottish football to (outside of Celtic) have won a major honour. Since Hibs beat the Rangers in that final, Celtic we have won 7 from 7 with an 8th on the way to secure 8 in a row, and the Cup semi-final this weekend.
So that April day may have been the end of road Ronny Deila at Celtic but it led to a complete domination of the major honours in Scotland by Celtic. The pain on the day may well have been was a worthy sacrifice for the success we’ve enjoyed since.
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