Angels and Demons.

Last updated : 29 May 2009 By Number Eight
It was against the odds really, especially when we cast our minds back to the January transfer window; Rangers were hosting a January Sale and Celtic had a comfortable lead in the league, and on both sides of the Old Firm divide there was a tangible feeling that the title-race was over.

Deep in the bowels of Parkhead, laughter filled the air at the plight of bitter rivals, Rangers, while at Ibrox, a stress-filled chairman and his lackie-in-chief stalked the great stadium`s corridors, perplexed that their bargain of the season could not be delivered to its intended Birmingham destination.

Scribes in the know declared that anything not nailed down at Ibrox was for sale, and at end of season prices, but Kris Boyd, the jewel in the Ibrox crown, insisted that a step down to Birmingham was a non-starter as he was already fulfilling his ambition every time he donned Rangers` famous blue jersey.

Celtic`s balance-sheet, with much less red ink than the claret-stained Rangers equivalent, was in good order, and pride in their new-found prudence inspired the decision not to invest any more serious cash in the team - after all, Rangers were in freefall, and nothing looked likely to arrest their steep financial decline.

Confidently, Celtic splashed some petty cash on Cardiff`s Willo Flood, depriving Dundee United, where he was on loan, of his services, and then proceeded to use him sparingly. Flood wasn`t going to win the league for Celtic because he wasn`t a striker, and that`s what Celtic required, and Strachan knew it.

Hibs had a striker who had caught the eye of the Celtic manager, but his interest in Fletcher was not going to be matched by the cash required to take him to Parkhead, and so Celtic plodded on with Scott McDonald, a bargain purchase from a previous season, and a couple of expensive foreign buys who mostly flattered to deceive.

What did it matter though, because Rangers were struggling just to keep the bank manager happy, and would hardly pose a realistic threat for the league title.

Four-in-a-row was on the horizon, and nothing would stop Peter Lawwell`s Celtic clinching the deal - or so it seemed. The transfer window deadline passed, and the Rangers squad remained intact, not because of any kind of managerial brilliance or insightful dealing, but because the club`s top scorer had thwarted a Rangers board so devoid of solutions to a predicament of its own making that it was prepared to unload the team`s top scorer in exchange for a few bob to stave off a bank that was distinctly unimpressed by its financial dealings.

It would be nice to imagine that this whole situation was engineered by Rangers in an effort to lull Celtic into a false sense of security, but the reality is that Rangers had very real financial difficulties, and they haven`t gone away.

As the season wore on, Rangers continued to misfire, but so did Celtic until eventually a breakdown looked likely. Gradually, the points gap between Celtic and Rangers reduced until a genuine two-way battle for the flag was on the cards.

As the final curtain approached, Celtic failed to score in three of their last four games while Rangers cobbled together a run of victories and a draw at Easter Road. When the fat lady finally stepped up to the mark, her song greeted new league champions - Rangers.

The title was won by the players more than the club, and by one player more than the rest. His goals alone should have ensured a Player of the Year Award, but his fall-out with the national team and his preference for blue over green made sure that once-prestigious awards would be heading in any direction but his - as if he cared.

His decision to stay where he wasn`t wanted and his refusal to go where has was genuinely desired, was a key factor in the league flag returning to its natural home at Ibrox. His consistency of goalscoring and insistence that Rangers would be his preferred employer ensured that he, more than any other Ranger, was a vital player this season, truly the player of the year.

As we cast a critical eye over the Old Firm angels and demons who have featured prominently in this season`s league campaign, Kris Boyd can be assured that he belongs in the former category.

The Celtic support - not many angels in that lot - has already greeted the departure of Gordon Strachan, but I`m sure it hasn`t been deluded into believing that their problems this season were all down to him.

It can seek out its own angels and demons, and I don`t think there are too many angels ...