WHEN the Celtic players made the short journey to Ibrox yesterday afternoon, they were arriving at their rivals’ home knowing that the 90 minutes to come would represent their last shot at silverware this season; one last chance to salvage a slither of redemption from a year that was supposed to be one of the grandest in its illustrious history.

Of course, it didn’t turn out that way. Not only has the ten-in-a-row dream been dead in the water for months, but it now transpires that Celtic will finish the campaign without a single trophy to their name after John Kennedy’s side were defeated 2-0. It’s been over a decade since the last time they finished a season empty-handed.

The match wasn’t all doom and gloom – indeed, Celtic probably had the better chances of the two sides over the piece and had spells where their breakthrough felt inevitable. But whether it was Odsonne Edouard fluffing his lines, Stephen Welsh’s statuesque reaction when the ball fell invitingly for him a few yards from goal or the heroics of Allan McGregor, the ball just wouldn’t go in.

Kennedy will have to shoulder the blame for the defeat and it may end up costing him in more ways than one. Long considered a potential candidate to succeed Neil Lennon on a permanent basis at Parkhead, his side’s recent performances against their rivals would suggest that he is not the man to instigate the change so desperately required at Celtic.


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The interim boss persisted with his preferred 4-4-2 diamond formation but it proved to be Celtic’s undoing. Far too often, the two full-backs, Diego Laxalt and Jonjoe Kenny, found themselves pinned deep inside their own territory, forced into playing simple sideways passes and without a team-mate available for a pass further up the wing. And on the occasions where they found a little bit of space to advance into, the two defenders invariably chose the conservative option.

This significantly hampered Celtic throughout the game. With no width being provided by either full-back, time and time again the visitors found themselves turning inward and backward, relinquishing any sense of urgency or impetus. Neither covered themselves in glory off the ball either – Laxalt was hooked at the interval as he clearly couldn’t deal with Joe Aribo’s trickery and Kenny provided an own goal – as they were easily beaten on a regular basis.

It came as no surprise when both goals arrived down Rangers’ right. On both occasions, Laxalt was left for dead by Aribo but Scott Brown didn’t exactly cover himself in glory either. As the defensive player in the midfield diamond, the 35-year-old was meant to be the shield that guarded the back four. Instead, he was caught out of position for the first, playing Davis onside. He was then beaten too easily as Nathan Patterson skipped past him and went close, and followed that up a few minutes later by allowing Aribo to slalom past him and force a second goal. Not to mention the numerous occasions where opposition players simply peeled away from him.

These three players – Kenny, Laxalt and Brown – made things too easy for Rangers and ultimately cost Celtic their place in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup but Kennedy’s tactics didn’t exactly help matters either. After the game he said that his team had been “too passive” in the first half, which was undoubtedly correct, but his set-up was a significant contributing factor to that very issue.

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Yesterday’s game was the only audition that mattered for Kennedy, and he blew it. Had he defeated Rangers and went on to win the Scottish Cup, he might well have landed the gig on a full-time basis. We all know about the club’s predilection for giving out jobs in the showers at Hampden.

But after another largely listless and rudderless display, Kennedy’s chances of securing the role permanently look to be close to zero. Overhauling Rangers is obviously the primary goal for the new manager, and Kennedy has now demonstrated on two occasions that he is unable to do so.

He will no doubt look back and wonder at what might have been, had things gone a little differently. What if Edouard had guided the ball into that open goal in the first half? What if McGregor hadn’t made that penalty save? What if Laxalt had actually made a tackle?

Alas, we’ll never know. What we do know is that this Celtic squad is in need of urgent overhaul, from top to bottom, and yesterday’s defeat has only made that clearer. Laxalt and Kenny simply aren’t up to the task. Brown is away to Pittodrie and on this evidence, it’s time he moved on. Edouard – who was guilty of missing a few glaring opportunities and had a particularly poor game – will be on his bike too. Mohamed Elyounoussi’s deal may not be made permanent and the Norwegian might well return to Southampton, while there are sizeable question marks over the futures of Ajer and Ryan Christie.


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With so much upheaval to come, Kennedy could have been viewed as an attractive candidate, even if only for the semblance of continuity that would accompany his appointment. But the defeat at Ibrox – that dour, uninspiring loss where Celtic were both out-fought and out-thought – showed just how necessary a clean break is. Many of the same problems that dogged Lennon this season were on show once again and Rangers knew precisely how to exploit them.

Gerrard and his coaching staff have this Celtic team sussed. A fresh tactical approach is required, and Kennedy has shown that he is incapable of providing one. And it might just cost him his chance at landing the job permanently.