IF Celtic fans were steeled against handing Rangers the title with the failure to beat Dundee United on Sunday, the next element to brace themselves from is the guard of honour chatter that will doubtless bounce around for the next few weeks.

Truth be told, there is no historical precedent on either side to indulge in that particular bit of football etiquette.

Neil Lennon suggested in May 2019 that his side would have offered a guard of honour when Rangers declined to do so ahead of the final game of the season between the teams but the history books reveal that there has been only one occasion when such an occurrence has taken place.

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The Ibrox side applauded Celtic onto the Ibrox pitch in March 1964 in recognition of the Parkhead side reaching the Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final – the more sceptical might suggest that a Celtic team then in the depths of domestic despair would have been regarded as carrying scant threat to Rangers then – while Sean Fallon was denied offering the same acknowledgement by the police in 1976 ahead of the final derby of the season at Celtic Park.

Since the turn of this century there have been eight games in which the final meeting of the season has come after the title winners have already been home and hosed. Seven of them have come with Celtic triumphant.
And former Celtic John Hartson has insisted that there is no reason for any break with tradition now.

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“Why would you start it now?” he said. “And where do you stop it? There is respect between players.

“Celtic don’t need to be told this season that Rangers have deserved it. And the players will appreciate just how well they have played.

“But the guard of honour thing is just a nonsense, really. They are rivals and there has to be mutual respect but you can have that without needing to go down the guard of honour road.

“What Rangers have achieved this season is there in black and white and will be forever more. They don’t need a guard of honour to be reminded of what they have done.

“Celtic have been disappointing this season. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. But at the same time when you reflect on what they done and how they dominated Scottish football for a decade, there has to be an admiration for everything that they achieved.

“Nine successive titles is extraordinary as was four quadruple trebles – that won’t be done again. And I’m fairly sure that in that run there would have been a fair few chances for Rangers to offer a guard of honour at that time which they didn’t.

“That’s not me being a former Celtic player and speaking like this. I just honestly think that there is no need to start it.”

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Even a win against Rangers will not make up for what Celtic have lost this season. But there is still something to be salvaged from the ruins of a doomed campaign given that Rangers so far are unbeaten in the league this term.

It puts Gerrard’s side on course to level the record-breaking 106 points that were claimed by Brendan Rodgers’ side in his inaugural season at the club, a European record for any top flight league.

Still, even if there is a spoke put in the wheel of the Ibrox side, Hartson has maintained that there is nothing for Celtic to celebrate.

“I remember two seasons ago when Neil had just gone back to Celtic after Brendan Rodgers had left,” said Hartson. “Celtic were on their way to a domestic Treble.

“They had won the league, they went to Ibrox and Rangers won 2-0. And I remember feeling so embarrassed for the Rangers players because they celebrated as they though had won the European Cup.

“I just remember thinking to myself ‘where have you been all season?’ It’s too late now for that to count for anything when the title has been decided.

“And that’s the same way I view this too. Celtic won’t want them coming and winning at Celtic Park but regardless of what happens the damage is done.

“They might feel that they don’t want Rangers celebrating on their own turf but it feels like crumbs of comfort. They haven’t turned up after 32 games so even if they get the win I fancy they would just want to get up the tunnel and into the dressing room.

“No matter how you frame it, there isn’t much to celebrate from this league season. The players will know that there are playing for pride but a win will still feel hollow given the fact that the title has slipped from their grip so easily.”