Ex-Rangers ace McAuley insists Celtic’s title is ‘tainted and hollow’ as he claims Hoops aren’t great sideby Colin Duncan
GARETH McAULEY claims Celtic’s nine in a row title is a hollow triumph.
The ex-Rangers stopper insists the Hoops’ Premiership victory this season counts for nothing as they didn’t finish the job on the pitch.
And he insists Neil Lennon’s men, who have won the last 11 domestic trophies, shouldn’t be hailed as a great side.
McAuley said: “This triumph will always be tainted and hollow. They didn’t win the title on the pitch, they were handed it.”
He also claims the titles won by the Hoops while Gers were in the lower leagues don’t carry the same prestige as previous championship victories.
McAuley also says skipper Scott Brown can’t be regarded as a true Celtic legend.
The stopper, capped 80 times by Northern Ireland, played just ten games for Rangers, after his switch from West Brom in 2018.
He said: “I actually feel sorry for the Celtic players now.
“They have officially been crowned SPFL champions, but all their hard work, dedication and gutsy performances when they ground out results will be forgotten.
“In the record books there will always be an asterisk beside this season’s championship.”
McAuley is convinced Celts gaffer Lennon will share his sentiments, even if he would not publicly say so.
He reckons his fellow countryman is basking in the glow of success just to noise up the blue half of Glasgow.
He added: “I know Neil Lennon was on TV recently saying this title win was the greatest one under his management.
“But that was all for show and to wind up the Rangers fans watching at home.
“Deep down it will rankle him that his team weren’t able to secure the title on the pitch.
“Of course, it wasn’t their fault, the Covid-19 pandemic sadly intervened and football was cancelled.
“But as a result, history will not look too kindly on this Celtic nine in a row team and that will hurt the current crop of players.”
The class of 2020 followed in the illustrious footsteps of Jock Stein’s famous team of the 1960s and 70s in winning nine straight league titles.
More recently Walter Smith’s Gers side equalled that feat back in 1997.
But McAuley firmly believes the current Hoops outfit are a pale shadow of both their predecessors.
The defender, who also played for Leicester and Ipswich, is adamant there is no comparison, given four championships were secured when Rangers were out of the top flight, and another came as a result of the league being called early.
McAuley said: “This team will never be revered in the same way as the great Celtic sides that won nine in a row between 1966 and 1974.
“Or the Rangers teams between 1989 and 1997. Those players are Old Firm royalty.
"They won titles after titanic and terrific battles against top sides.
“Think of all the stars and even world class players in their ranks.
“Yet, the Celtic sides of the last nine years, while successful, will be remembered for winning titles when Rangers weren’t in the league — and then being handed the title this year.
“That must be so frustrating for players who thrive on competition.
“I say this as a former professional footballer and a competitor, not as a former Rangers player.
“I would feel exactly the same way if it were the blue half of Glasgow in this position.
“I certainly wouldn’t be celebrating, because, as a professional sportsman you crave competition, the thrill of the win after a hard-fought battle.
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“Knowing you have given everything possible to beat your opponent on a level playing field.”
McAuley, who retired from playing last summer, also took a swipe at Hoops skipper Brown, who along with James Forrest, is the only Celt to have played a part in all nine triumphs.
Writing in his column in the Belfast Telegraph he said: “Scott Brown is a great player in Scottish football, and I know he would love to be regarded in the same way as the nine in a row Celtic players of the past.
“But that’s not going to happen. He’ll be held in high esteem, but not on the same level as a Bobby Lennox or Stevie Chalmers.”
The SPFL’s decision to call the season early has clearly annoyed McAuley, who can’t get his head around the process of crowning Celtic and relegating Hearts.
He added: “If a season cannot be finished on the pitch, then for the integrity of the league, it should be voided.
“Sure, allow the positions to indicate European places, but split the prize money.
“There can’t be any relegation either, so I am furious Hearts have been relegated.
“Football no longer becomes a game, it is no longer a sport, and it really does make me think, do I want anything more to do with it?
“The biggest problem is important decisions are being made by people who have never really been involved in the game from a playing point of view.
“The outcome of a league must be decided on the pitch, or not at all.”
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