The Season Book Years – 2011/12
Continuing the season book years series, remember that the one rule I set myself here was that I could only pick a game that was on the season book that I actually went to. As such, they’re all home league games. I might mention other games from that season to put it into the context of the season, but the main focus will be on that one home league game. So, with that in mind…
Celtic 1-0 Heart of Midlothian, 10th December 2011.
Neil Lennon’s words at the end of the previous season in May had seemed a long way off by the time we reached October. 3-0 down to Kilmarnock at half time at Rugby Park, it looked like he was going to be heading out the door in a way similar to that of his predecessor Tony Mowbray after a miserable defeat at St Mirren Park. But Lennon’s team wasn’t Mowbray’s team, and that 3-0 deficit became a remarkable 3-3 draw. But it was still a small comfort in a season where we were already badly trailing behind Rangers in the league.
Fast forward to December and suddenly Celtic were closing the gap. November had been good for us, and a gap which had been as high as 15 points – albeit with two games in hand – at the start of the month was now coming down rapidly as we went on a winning run and Rangers started dropping points. But one game probably showed Celtic’s determination more than any.
Hearts were once again the visitors on this memorable game – although the game itself wasn’t really all that memorable! Indeed, for three quarters of the game it was Celtic failing to break down a stuffy Hearts. But with a little over quarter of an hour remaining, Victor Wanyama turned at the edge of the box and fired his first goal for Celtic into the top corner of the net.
It was a remarkable goal from a player who was only just beginning to fit into the Celtic team. Originally starting as a centre back, Wanyama was now in the midfield in a position he would make his own until he eventually moved on to Southampton in a £12 million transfer. Before then he’d add to this goal against Hearts with some more terrific strikes – probably most memorably with a header against Barcelona in the 2-1 win in the Champions League less than twelve months after this game. There’s no doubt such performances at the highest level are why he was sold for such a high price tag.
But Wanyama’s goal wasn’t the last eventful moment of the Hearts game. With just a few minutes left, Hearts were awarded a penalty for what appeared to be a nothing challenge by Wanyama himself. Eggert Jonsson stepped up to take the penalty, but found Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster in terrific form to keep the ball out of the net and ensure the three points stayed at Celtic Park and our winning run remained unbroken.
If this game marked the coming of Victor Wanyama in midfield, then it also marked the day Fraser Forster truly became Celtic’s number one goalkeeper. There had been plenty of doubts about the Englishman up to this point, but following this penalty save the Celtic fans warmed more and more to him. Within a year, he’d earn the title “La Gran Muralla” – The Great Wall – after his heroics in the two Champions League matches against Barcelona. Eventually he’d join Wanyama at Southampton for £10 million, another big money sale for Celtic to England. £22 million for two players, both of which can arguably trace their successful Celtic careers back to this one pivotal game.
The 1-0 win over Hearts kept the pressure on Rangers, and by the end of the month Celtic had not only caught them but had actually overtaken them after a 1-0 win at Celtic Park courtesy of a Joe Ledley header in the final game of the calendar year. Rangers would never again top the SPL as Celtic not only kept the gap but stretched it to four points before Rangers lost ten points by going into administration. Celtic would go on to win the league by far more than those ten points – double that in fact – although not officially clinching the title at Ibrox was definitely a massive missed opportunity given the SPL’s ridiculous habit of trying to schedule fixtures to avoid just such a scenario.
But Celtic would have the last and final laugh as a 3-0 thumping at Celtic Park, complete with Green Brigade four horsemen banners, foreshadowed the end of Rangers.
With a failed CVA in June, thanks to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs who effectively had the final say as they were the biggest single creditor with or without the inclusion of tax cases, Rangers were doomed to liquidation.