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Rangers no longer offer a challenge as Celtic’s Old Firm dominance continued at the weekend

Martyn Cooke

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There was once a time when playing in an Old Firm derby at Ibrox whilst wearing the green and white hoops of Celtic was a daunting prospect.

However, after Saturday’s contest we can safely assume that this is no longer the case.

The first Old Firm derby of the new campaign confirmed two things; first, that Rangers have failed to make up any ground over their neighbours despite an active summer in the transfer market and, second, that Celtic’s dominance over Scottish football shows absolutely no signs of being halted any time soon. It also demonstrated that Brandan Rodgers’ side no longer have any real reason to fear or be concerned with the prospect of a short trip across Glasgow to Ibrox.

In reality Celtic brushed aside Rangers with relative ease on Saturday, much in the same way that they have despatched each and every team that they have met in domestic competitions over the previous fourteen months. The Hoops are now unbeaten in 57 domestic games and the green and white juggernaut will take some stopping – if it can be stopped at all.

The atmosphere at Ibrox was hostile, as it will always be when the neighbours come to town, but there was an obvious gulf in quality and class between the two teams on display. Celtic applied themselves with a confidence and assertiveness that their unbeaten record deserves and they played as if it was a home match. The Hoops rarely looked stressed or stretched and Rangers’ impotence is demonstrated by the statistics – they managed just one shot on target and one corner throughout the ninety minutes.

Pedro Caixinha’s side were resilient and worked tirelessly but simply lacked the quality to truly trouble the visitors. Rangers actually spent more money than their rivals during the summer but there is nothing to suggest that this has facilitated any substantial improvement or progress when compared to the previous season. They are some way from closing the gulf in class.

This fact was definitively highlighted by the standard of player that Brendan Rodgers named among the substitutes for Saturday. Callum McGregor, James Forrest, Moussa Dembele and Jonny Hayes all occupied the Celtic bench at Ibrox and an argument could be made that all four are superior to any player in the current Rangers squad. In contrast, injuries had exposed the hosts lack of strength in depth and 19-year-old central defender Ross McCrorie was thrown in very much at the deep end for his first competitive start.

Celtic have already opened up a clear five point lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League and their dominance is decisive. Meanwhile Rangers already trail their neighbours by eight points and you sense that the pressure is already starting to build around Caixinha.

There was once a time when Ibrox was a place to fear for Celtic, yet those days appear to be long gone and, armed with the annual financial windfall that participation in the Champions League brings, you sense that The Hoops will hold power and sway over Rangers and Scottish football for a long time to come.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

Celtic

Celtic linked with Keiren Westwood, who snubbed Brendan Rodgers in 2015

The Sheffield Wednesday stopper rejected a move to Liverpool back in January 2015.

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Reports today are suggesting that Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood could be on his way out of Hillsborough. The Sun reports that the Owls could sell the keeper this summer after an injury-ravaged campaign. The 33-year-old has not played since December and will not play again this season because of a groin strain.

Three teams have been mentioned as interested in his services and one of them will not come as a surprise. Southampton and Leeds United are chasing him in England, whilst in Scotland, it is Celtic who are being linked with a move for the experienced goalkeeper.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has been here for before.

(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Back in January 2015, the Celtic boss was in charge at Liverpool. He had become increasingly frustrated with the performances of Simon Mignolet so decided it was time for a change. That change was to bring in Westwood.

The then 30-year-old stopper had been in fine form for Wednesday that season. Liverpool, therefore, wanted to take him to Anfield to try and improve the goalkeeper position.

But he turned the move down. As reported by The Mirror the Irishman rejected the move as he was happy with Wednesday, stating:

“They gave me the chance to kick-start my career again, and I’m really happy to be here.”

(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Now Rodgers might finally have the chance to get his man.

The Republic of Ireland international would surely relish the chance to join Celtic. The Bhoys also need a new keeper, with Dorus De Vries clearly not up to the task of replacing Craig Gordon when the number one is injured. Scott Bain is currently between the sticks, but only on loan, so Westwood would be a shrewd acquisition.

Time will tell if Rodgers is left disappointed yet again.

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Daniel Sturridge is the bold transfer target Celtic must target this summer

The Liverpool-owned striker has had a torrid time and a fresh start with Celtic could be perfect remedy.

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It has been another season to forget for Daniel Sturridge. The England striker found himself out of favour at Liverpool after a string of injury-ravaged campaigns. Jurgen Klopp instead used him as a bit-part player. Therefore, in hope of a late surge toward the England World Cup squad, Sturridge headed out on loan in January. He went to aid the relegation fight at West Brom. Unfortunately, lady luck is not kind to the Liverpool-owned player.

Sturridge played just three times for the Baggies before picking up a hamstring injury.

In the summer he needs a fresh start and Scottish giants Celtic are the perfect club to give him just that.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 01: Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal with Manager Brendan Rodgers during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on September 01, 2013 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Celtic have had it all their own way in recent years. This season it seems Brendan Rodgers will again guide his side to the Scottish Premiership title. However, next term looks like it is going to be a far greater challenge for the Bhoys.

Rangers look resurgent, Aberdeen are strong, Hearts have an exciting group of young players whilst Neil Lennon and Steve Clarke are doing great jobs at Hibernian and Kilmarnock.

Celtic need to stamp their authority as the number one team in Scotland in the transfer market this summer, especially with concerns over the future of Tom Rogic and Scott Sinclair.

One year ago the idea of signing Sturridge seemed fanciful for Celtic. Now it is a deal that really could happen.

Brendan Rodgers is a huge advocate for the forward. He knew him from his time at Chelsea and turned him into a goal-machine during their time at Liverpool.

during the Premier League match between Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion at Etihad Stadium on January 31, 2018 in Manchester, England.

Sturridge is a massive name and, when fit, one of the best strikers in Europe. Celtic are a massive club, despite what football fans south of the border might like to make out.

Sturridge would surely jump at the chance to play for a club in the Champions League with the prestige that the Bhoys carry. Such an opportunity would surely make him consider a wage-cut, whilst Celtic would also want some assurances in any deal of cover if injury troubles persisted in Glasgow.

In the past Celtic have lured the likes of Roy Keane, Craig Bellamy and Robbie Keane to Parkhead when not many thought they could. This summer Rodgers should be bold and send out a message by bringing Sturridge to Glasgow.

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£2m Celtic target in 2016, Wout Weghorst is now a Dutch international

The AZ Alkmaar striker made his international debut this week.

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In January of 2016 Celtic identified the striker target they wanted to bring in to counteract the lack of impact of summer arrival Nadir Ciftci. The player in question was Heracles Almelo striker Wout Weghorst, with The Scotsman suggesting he could be a Celtic player for a fee of £2 million.

A towering figure at 6ft 4ins tall Weghorst was in good form with the Eredivisie club and Celtic’s interest looked promising.

However, the Dutchman did not head to Glasgow and in the summer headed to Dutch rivals AZ Alkmaar as a replacement for the Tottenham Hotspur-bound Vincent Janssen.

ALKMAAR, NETHERLANDS – MARCH 02: Team mate, Wout Weghorst runs towards Goalkeeper, Tim Krul of AZ Alkmaar as he celebratres saving the final penalty in the shoot out to win the Dutch KNVB Cup Semi-final match between AZ Alkmaar and SC Cambuur held at AFAS Stadion on March 2, 2017 in Alkmaar, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

It is fair to say Celtic are now regretting not signing the player. Weghorst has been in fantastic form since joining AZ. Last season he found the back of the net on 18 occasions and this season has been even more impressive for the 24-year-old.

Weghorst has scored 22 goals for AZ this season and that form has paid off with the ultimate accolade. With Janssen injured, Weghorst received his first call-up to the Netherlands national team. New manager Ronald Koeman went on to hand him his debut in the 1-0 loss against England in the week.

That January, when Celtic failed to secure a deal for Weghorst they did sign Colin Kazim-Richards who, along with Carlton Cole, did not fill any sort of striker void.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – MARCH 06: Colin Kazim-Richards of Celtic shoots at goal during the William Hill Scottish Cup Quarter Final match between Celtic and Greenock Morton at Celtic Park Stadium on March 6, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty images)

Since then Celtic have done better in the transfer market. Scott Sinclair has added goals from attacking midfield whilst Moussa Dembele is a top talent.

But Weghorst is a different beast to both players and would have been an excellent asset for Celtic.

Now he is playing at international level for the Netherlands, Celtic would find it hard to convince the striker into a Parkhead switch.

If only the Bhoys could have secured his signature when they had the chance.

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