When last season’s SPFL was curtailed because of the ongoing pandemic, there was one narrative; Celtic would win ten titles in a row.
Indeed, it was easy to see why.
Steven Gerrard’s Rangers had fallen off dramatically towards the back end of the 2019/20 campaign and Celtic have been beyond dominant in the last decade.
However, fast forward to the present day and the script hasn’t been followed. It rarely does in football but this issued a timely reminder that the Scottish game does have its drama.
This season has been a fascinating one to watch. The frontrunners for the first time in what feels like forever are the Gers.
Celtic are now 11 points behind their arch-rivals, but if we are looking for positives, they have two games in hand.
Odsonne Edouard is still finding the net with great regularity – five goals in nine league outings – but it’s the rest of the forward line and indeed the defence that need to lend greater assistance.
Nir Bitton has looked out of his depth and with Christopher Jullien out injured, they are lacking one of the core members of their title-winning team last season.
However, much of their failure this term can be accredited to Peter Lawwell, Nick Hammond and the rest of Celtic’s recruitment team. Why? Because they ignored Ivan Toney and decided to sign Albian Ajeti instead.
Now, the latter started his career at Parkhead in blistering form. The former West Ham striker netted five in his opening six games but like Celtic, his form has dropped off a cliff in the last few months.
The Swiss has now failed to score in his last eight appearances and looked a very isolated figure against Hibernian last weekend. According to WhoScored, in two of his last three matches, Ajeti has dropped an average rating below 6.1.
That is disastrous, especially when you consider Hammond could have spent that £4.5m elsewhere more wisely.
It’s fair to say this was a catastrophic blunder. Toney has found the back of the net ten times in just 14 games in the English Championship this season and is proving to be a prolific entity.
This shouldn’t be a surprise either. Peterborough owner Barry Fry commented in the summer: “Toney would be a revelation for Celtic, he’d be a star, for definite. He’d score 30 to 40 goals up there, he really would.”
Steve Evans, meanwhile, noted his proficiency a number of years ago: “Ivan is a dream for a manager. His goals record is brilliant, but his work rate is phenomenal,” he said:
With Celtic now in real danger of not winning the title for the first time in ten years, it’s hard to suggest that he wouldn’t have made a difference.
This was a season-defining decision and by not meeting Peterborough’s asking price, they made a fatal error.
It is coming back to bite them.