Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers on the cusp of equalling Jock Stein’s unbeaten record - But is it all that?by Simon Lillicrap / 25 January 2017, 12:07Tweet
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers is one game away from equalling the legendary Jock Stein’s 26 game unbeaten domestic record with the Hoops that has stood for 50 years. But, given the quality of the Scottish Premier League, is the record still something to be impressed by? We analyse the evidence.
If they manage to draw or win their game against St Johnstone tonight, then Celtic will have gone 26 domestic games without defeat in one season, thus equalling the side of 1966/67. Stein’s side scored more goals during their run (91 to 66), but also conceded more (26 to Rodgers’ 16), and drew three games during his run compared to just one this time around.
There is no doubt that Celtic have been phenomenal this season, drawing just one of these games and winning the other 24. The draw came way back in September away at bottom club Inverness who have won just three times this season. But, this record has come under criticism from some due to the inadequacy of the sides they have been facing during this run.
More than ever this season has shown the lack of quality in the Scottish Premier League outside of Celtic: second placed Rangers are a whopping 19 points behind the leaders, having played a game more. Against better sides, Celtic did not cover themselves in glory. They failed to win a group game in the Champions League this season and were even embarrassed in the qualifying stage of the tournament as they lost to Gibraltar’s finest - the Lincoln Red Imps.
One of their star players this season has been Scott Sinclair, who played well for Swansea in their debut season in the Premier League but failed to have an impact after his move to Man City. His transfer to Celtic seems to have invigorated him and he seems to enjoy being his sides star man - 11 goals in the league has helped his side get tantalisingly close to the landmark.
The quality in the league is clearly lacking but as the old saying goes: “You can only beat what’s in front of you”. The impressiveness in this record comes from the consistency they have showed throughout the season. Admittedly they may not have had to be performing at their very best to win every game but to go 26 games without a loss is impressive in whatever division.
Fans and managers alike are aware of the one-off days you can have in football where things do not click and the team falls to a lacklustre defeat, but this has been avoided by Rodgers and Celtic. The pressure will be on tonight (Wednesday) with everyone aware of how close they are to beating Stein’s half century old record which will provide another test for them to overcome. This record could coincide fittingly with captain Scott Brown’s 400th career appearance, with 263 of these coming in the green and white Hoops.
Overall the criticism about the quality of their opposition is understandable, however any side remaining unbeaten for 26 games is a great achievement, consistency is the hardest thing to find and maintain in football, and for that reason Celtic’s achievement should be commended by the footballing world.