Gareth McAuley has reiterated his claim that Celtic’s nine-in-a-row Scottish Premiership triumph is ‘tainted and hollow’ after they were awarded the title by the SPFL.
The former Rangers star made a number of stinging comments over the weekend, slamming the Hoops players and manager for celebrating a title they didn’t even win.
And it appears his remarks peeved Celtic super fan and talkSPORT regular Sir Rod Stewart, who sent in his angry response as soon as McAuley stopped talking!
Neil Lennon’s men were crowned champions earlier this month after the Scottish Professional Football League declared the season was over due to the coronavirus crisis.
Celtic were given the title having sat 13 points clear of Rangers at the top of the table, but there has been plenty of opposition to the decision, which has also seen Hearts relegation to the Scottish Championship, with claims the Hoops’ 2019/20 win will always have an asterisk next to it in the record books.
One of those people is McAuley, who wrote in his column for Northern Irish newspaper Sunday Life that he ‘felt sorry’ for the Celtic players, as they cannot be compared to the great Celtic and Rangers teams that won nine straight league titles in the 60s, 70s and 80s.
“I actually feel sorry for the Celtic players,” said the former Ibrox ace. “They didn’t win the title on the pitch, they were handed it.
“They have officially been crowned champions, their ninth success in a row, but this triumph will always be tainted and hollow.
“They’ll never be revered in the same light 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 Championships after titanic and terrific battles against top sides.
“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.”
He also claimed Lennon’s celebrations, the manager hailing his current team as the best he has managed and this season as his most memorable title win, were ‘for show, just to wind up Rangers supporters’.
McAuley’s comments have sparked a big reaction in the Scottish press.
And the former West Brom centre-back joined talkSPORT on Tuesday to further explain his comments, telling Jim White:
“Listen, I congratulate Celtic on their nine in a row, but it will always be thrown back at that team [that they didn’t win it on the pitch], and that’s a shame.
“Unlike the Celtic teams in the 60s and 70s they’ll always be an ‘if’ or a ‘but’ that will be labelled at this team.
“In a way I just feel sorry for the players, sorry for the ones who have been there through it all.
“Obviously they’ve won leagues when Rangers haven’t even been in the league with them, and this season had been cut short.
“Listen, they were 13 points clear and they kicked on in the back-end of the season and they were going to win this nine in a row anyway, even though it was cut short, but I just a little bit sorry for them. It is a little bit hollow.
“Being an ex-player I know what you need to put into it [to win a league title].
“Scott Brown is a great player, he’s been there all along, he is Celtic, he’s the driving force, he’s the winner, and it’s the winner in him that I don’t think will be fulfilled, because it’ll always be thrown back at them that they won leagues without Rangers and this season was cut short.
“Neil Lennon would have wanted to win it on the pitch, he would have wanted to celebrate with his team on the pitch. I know Lenny and his character, and all this stuff saying this was the best team and he’s enjoyed this one the most, and that was just to wind up the Rangers fans.
“I feel there’s a wee bit missing from it.
“The big thing is now for Rangers is to try and stop ten next season, if we can get up and running.”
Celtic fan Rod Stewart was having none of that, though, and no sooner had McAuley stopped speaking than host Jim White read out a text from the 75-year-old rocker.
“I’ve just pulled over,” it read.
“Please remind your learned Rangers friend that he can’t come over and dismiss our achievements.”