One of the most debated topics on both sides of the border is how Celtic would fare should they ever play in the English Premier League.
Celtic are currently celebrating breaking the British record of going 63 domestic matches unbeaten – a fine achievement in its own right – and you sense this record can be extended by some margin yet. But amongst the euphoria lies the belief that it is something of a falsity – with the record not truly being a reflection of how good Celtic are – but how poor and lacking quality their opponents are. Which is not Celtic’s fault of course – but does give some credence to the belief that should Celtic become a Premier League club, they would struggle – if not get relegated.
Indeed, as one cynical football fan recently observed ” Celtic in Scotland unbeaten in 63 games? Its like putting Swansea City in the League of Wales and being surprised when they do the same”.
It is of course hard to quantify. Most people believe that Scottish Premier League clubs other than Celtic are of English Championship standard if not Division 1. Well, when you consider that clubs the size and stature of Aston Villa, Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland (in terms of ground size and support) and then of historical note such as Nottingham Forest, Derby County, Middlesbrough, Wolves, Norwich and Ipswich, this isn’t such a poor standard. Notwithstanding that drop a division further and you find the likes of Blackburn Rovers, Wigan, Bradford City and Portsmouth in there – all recent Premier League inhabitants and, of course, in Blackburn’s case, Premier League winners.
So, setting aside the logistical issues of how Celtic would ever get into the Premier League, ahead of Championship clubs, or undergoing a playoff against a relegated side – and of course ignoring the disastrous effect this would have on Scottish football in itself – how would they do?
Initially, we suspect, the popular belief is accurate. Their current team and squad is not deep enough or has enough quality about it to survive in the Premier League. They would have their moments of course – but the overall quality of the Premier League week by week would be too much, initially, for Celtic to handle. They could spend cash in order to be more competitive – but would a Celtic team looking for Premier League survival be as attractive a proposition to players knowing they are virtually assured of success, medals and Champions League football at Celtic Park currently? Funds may not be an issue – especially with the exposure to the Premier League TV riches – but getting signatures on contracts may.
Much is made of the support Celtic have and how that would become a huge factor, in terms of revenue as well as the undoubted fervent support for the Hoops coming from the stands. Its certainly true – but it hasn’t stopped the likes of Newcastle United and West Ham United from being relegated in recent seasons and – as mentioned – clubs with as relative great support currently reside in the English second flight.
So a struggle, possible relegation in the early seasons…but…we do feel that, in time, Celtic could come back stronger and more attuned to the higher standard and competitiveness of the Premier League. We know the fans would still be there…and, as clubs like Leicester City have shown, you don’t have to be a Manchester United or Chelsea to gain success in the Premier League. They would develop, and though go through many barren years in comparison to the Scottish League, would ultimately be a richer club for it. It isn’t difficult to see them turning into a second tier club in the Premier League…with the possible potential, eventually, to become a top tier club purely because it is Celtic.
This subject will continue to be debated fervently as months and years pass. It is intriguing – and the writer, for one, would love to see it happen. How is a much bigger question than the what if. But football is a game of dreams – and maybe this one can come true, one day.