For years, speculations regarding a Premier League move for Scotland’s most successful club Celtic have been going around. The Bhoys have been the most dominant side in the Scottish Premiership for a very long time and have expressed their intentions to move away from their national division to join English football.
It has been discussed in the upper echelons of the governing bodies, with current FIFA President Gianni Infantino, claiming back in 2014, when he was the general secretary of UEFA, about a potential move for Celtic. But nothing materialised. There was more disappointment in 2016 when the English Football League rejected the idea of including the Hoops in the new structure.
There is no question that a move South will be extremely beneficial for Celtic. The financial disparity between the two leagues is very wide and the Hoops will reap great financial benefits by moving to English competitions. To add to this, throw in the huge television rights money, it would help the club grow financially.
The biggest advantage for the Bhoys would be the chance to compete at a higher level. At this point, Celtic are running away with the Premiership title, having not lost a single game in the division so far. Rodgers’ men have accumulated 79 points so far from 27 games, winning 26 encounters and drawing just one. The fact that their closest competition, Aberdeen, are 27 points behind at this stage indicates the level of difference in class and the lack of a tough competition and challenge for Brendan Rodgers’ side.
So, if Celtic do move to the Premier League, will they be able to cut it in the biggest league in Europe? Will they manage to compete? Clearly, the manager thinks so. Back in September last year, Rodgers claimed in the press that his team would enjoy great success in the English top division and would finish in the top-four of the competition.
“Make no bones about it. If Celtic are in England, Celtic are one of the top four/six clubs there,” said Rodgers. “So, can you imagine then the resources playing at that level, what that would produce for Celtic. It could go as far as it wants then.”
How far is Rodgers’ assessment of the situation true? Will Celtic manage to finish in the top-four? Or will they end up at the bottom? We take a look;
Take a look at records from the history books; In the European competitions between 1965 and 2009, the Scottish outfit have had an upper hand. In the 18 times that Celtic have faced an English opposition, they have emerged triumphant seven times, drawing five and losing six. In the recent past, the Hoops have a similar record, winning seven, drawing six and losing six times, in European competitions, between 2009 and 2016.
The records clearly suggest that Celtic can provide a tough competition to English clubs. Considering the overall record of Celtic in Europe, it doesn’t make for a great reading. However, the fact that they have had a favourable outcome against English opponents shows that they raise their games against the neighbours.
But, can they manage to sustain such a level of performance over the course of one whole season? The answer is not known. The pace of the Premier League gets the better of even the biggest teams in the world. No game is easy in the English top-flight, with any team on its day being capable of coming out on top. The pressure of playing at such a level, week in week out, takes a toll on the players mentally and physically. This means that, for a team to survive in the league, deep reserves with quality is a must.
Celtic have an excellent first-team squad with a good combination of experience and flair. In Moussa Dembele, they have one of the most promising strikers in Europe. He is being chased by almost all the giant European clubs. Then there is the young Kieran Tierney who has been earning rave reviews for his performances. In Kolo Toure, they have someone with loads of Premier League experience. But beyond the first team, there aren’t many players who would be able to compete at the level. Thus, if any of the bigger stars struggle for form or get injured, Celtic could struggle.
But given the confidence that they are enjoying currently and the amazing streak that they have put on, which has very well sealed the Premiership title, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Bhoys make it big in England.
However, confidence can carry you only so far. Indeed, Celtic have shown spirit and tenacity going up against English clubs in European competitions in the past, indicating that they will be able to raise their game against bigger clubs like Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea. But the results against the mid-table clubs and the clubs of the lower stature would define their position in the table.
The likes of Burnley and Stoke City are difficult prospects to face, even for the best of the teams. Physical teams with a direct style of play, who prefer to defend solidly could pose problems for Celtic. They don’t have to look further than Rodgers’ previous team to understand that. Liverpool have scored the most goals in the league this season, but have been found wanting in the games against teams that set out to defend.
Considering all these factors, the end result would very likely be a mid-table finish for Celtic. But with an investment on quality players and after playing one season in the Premier League, Rodgers’ predictions may well come true.