IN COMMON with all Timdom, I rejoiced heartily over the proclamation, post our 4-0 victory at McDiarmid Park on Saturday 4 November, that Celtic had broken our own 100-year-old record of 62 consecutive domestic matches undefeated. In the prevailing euphoria at the time, it never for one minute occurred to me that the claim might be in any way premature or ‘debatable’.
Imagine my astonishment, then, on reviewing some work of mine from ten years ago, to find that I had credited Willie Maley’s “Invincibles” of 1915 – 1917 with a run of not 62 but 66 unbeaten domestic fixtures. How could I have got it so wrong?
Well, I checked … and the truth is, I didn’t get it wrong!
The Maley squad of the day went unbeaten domestically in 62 LEAGUE games … plus 4 cup ties … between 20 November 1915 and 14 April 1917. So, how does that square with Brendan’s current squad’s record of 63 unbeaten … made up of 50 League games plus 13 cup ties?
The short answer, of course, is that clearly it doesn’t square.
So, what is going on here? There has to be an explanation for this apparent anomaly. So, let’s break things down a little.
The current squad’s run comprises League games, Scottish Cup ties and League Cup ties. Back in Maley’s 1915 – 1917 run, the Scottish Cup had been suspended in wartime and the League Cup didn’t yet exist – and would not for another 30 years, until Season 1946/47. The 4 cup ties in question were in the Glasgow Cup and the Glasgow Charity Cup, both of which Celtic won within the scope of the record run. In the era in question, both those competitions were very big deals in their own right, full-blown ‘senior’ events, attracting huge crowds – albeit unquestionably of lesser stature than the National Trophy itself. It does, though, seem a little churlish to penalise the club of the time for not having competed in, far less won, the Scottish Cup – when, quite simply, it couldn’t.
Nonetheless, on the face of it, whatever the reasoning, it DOES appear that those Glasgow competitions have been discounted for purposes of record calculation. Brendan’s record IS the record, pure and simple. There is no questioning that – certainly not on this site, which reveres all things Celtic – not least the present manager and what he has brought to the club; and bearing in mind that we are competing with ourselves here, the situation is less contentious than it might otherwise be.
That said, irrespective of the comparative stature of some of the matches involved, it remains an indisputable fact that Willie Maley’s original “Invincibles” went undefeated domestically for 66 games across the spectrum of senior competitions available to them in their time and place in history.
Now, if I were Brendan Rodgers, who may or may not be aware of these statistics, I would be keen to remove any debatability factor by at least establishing a run of 67 senior games without defeat.
By my reckoning, assuming fixtures run as scheduled, that mark can be reached on Saturday 2 December, via the third of a rare ‘triple-header’ v Motherwell that starts with the League Cup Final on 26 November.
Irrespective of records, wouldn’t there be a lovely symmetry to taking the current run to 67 … that most magical of many magical Celtic numbers?