It seems it was back in the mists of time that Celtic were finally confirmed as Scottish Premier League champions for this season.
With all the major outcomes of the campaign seemingly decided, there was a risk of our top flight descending to Olympic football levels of indifference. The title had been won, the league had been split, and the baldy men of the bottom half of the table were fighting over the comb over seventh place. Even the relegation dogfight looked to be less Rottweiler and more Rude Dog and the Dweebs.
Fortunately, nobody told Dundee United. Two months ago United were on 31 points, just one above Aberdeen and one behind Kilmarnock. Motherwell were quaffing the champagne (ok, fizzy wine) in the runaway freight train of third place, blowing raspberries and making rude gestures at the rest of the division as they opened up a 12 point gap over everybody else.
Since that point Dundee United have won seven of their last eight games, and are closing on third place, presumably on one of those pump-handle train things you get in cartoons. The latest victory came at McDiarmid Park, where goals from Scott Robertson and John Rankin gave the Terrors a 2-0 victory.
Peter Houston’s side face Motherwell on the last day of the season in what may, somewhat depressingly, be the only meaningful match we’ve got left this term.
It’s been an eventful couple of weeks for both Hearts and Rangers, who faced each other in the early kick off on Saturday. Last weekend Hearts progressed to the first all-Edinburgh Scottish Cup final since David Weir were a lad. It also meant that for the first time since 1983 two of the three Scottish trophies will be housed outside of Glasgow at the end of the campaign.
Rangers continue to be a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, mired in debt off the pitch, but a surprisingly competent and combative prospect on it. The latest twist in an already labyrinthine plot regarded a potential takeover from the Far East by the businessman Bill Ng.
Come on now. I don’t like to make the easy joke, but really? A team with potential nine figure debts was wanted by someone called Bill Ng? It’s more apt than Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, Wolfgang Wolf at Wolfsburg or my new made-up player Alan Vladikavkaz...
Ok, just let me just get these out of my system. Presumably there will be a letter from his lawyer, Mr IP Freely. Still, better him than his brothers, Default Ng and Tenpointdock Ng.
As if things matters were not bizarre enough, US businessman Bill Miller stepped into the breach, claiming he wanted to “radiate the toxicity of past administrations’ sins out of the patient while the healthy heart is preserved”. I have no idea what that means, but it has strangely made me more excited about The Avengers film.
Despite the machinations of the takeover bid(s?) going on around them Rangers continue to show resilience whenever given the opportunity. While there are obviously more pressing concerns than the short term future of the club, there are signs that should they weather the immediate storm there may be some silver linings to the current dark clouds.
Andrew Little, for one, appears significantly better than my last sentence and has improved more in two months of regular football than in three years of cameos and loan spells. His double in the 3-0 win over Hearts means that he now has five in the last seven games. To put that in perspective, David Healy has managed four in his SPL career.
Sone Aluko and Little gave Rangers a 2-0 lead before Tynecastle was spared a bare-chested lap of honour when Craig Beattie hit the crossbar with his penalty. A late third goal from Little further underlined the doggedness of McCoist’s embattled side.
Few managers are as acquainted with the supporters’ eye view as Neil Lennon, who watched from the stand for what one suspects will not be the last time, as his side beat Motherwell 3-0. While all of that information seems fairly routine, the main talking point from the match was the quite immediate impact of teenager Tony Watt, who scored two of Celtic’s goals. With a surname like that, he has a lot to live up to.
Lennon was in experimental mood, deploying a three man defence, giving Lukasz Zaluska an airing and even allowing photographers everywhere the chance to create documentary evidence that Pawel Brozek actually donned the hoops. Cha Du Ri headed Celtic’s third of the day.
Sometimes goals tell the story of a game; a well worked team-goal can show the unity of a side, or a 25-yard bullet on a sodden pitch can perfectly surmise the game. Sometimes the medium can be the message.
Aberdeen’s trip to Inverness ended in a 2-0 win for the visitors thanks to own goals from first Roman Golobart and then Kenny Gillet. Yes, quite.
Dunfermline truly are a strange beast this season. If relegation were decided by committee then few could argue they have been quite as abject as their position suggests. Their problem remains that they almost guarantee opponents the chance to capitalise on at least a couple of mistakes in each game.
For everything good they do there is at least one counter-productive act. Kind of like the career of Nicholas Cage.
On Saturday they managed to get their balance right, scoring four goals against St Mirren. In keeping with their description, they also let in a quartet, with Steven Thompson scoring a hat-trick for Danny Lennon’s side. Still, for a side that needs a minimum of three wins from their final four matches, there was tenacity from Dunfermline, coming back from 3-1 and 4-2 down to get the draw.
Depending on whether you are glass half-full or glass half-empty kind of person, it was the fourth time Dunfermline had scored three or more in a match this season. And the third that they had failed to win.
Of course, there is still something of a fight at the bottom of the division. Killie wizard Kenny Shiels may not have had any fit strikers but still managed to conjure a victory at Easter Road thanks to a Dean Shiels penalty.
• Celtic (84) look like they’ll be trying out a few new moves between now and the end of the season.
• Rangers (66) are one win away from confirming second place from Motherwell (55) or Dundee United (52).
• St Johnstone (50) still have an outside chance of finishing third, while Hearts (48) would probably need maximum points from their remaining fixtures.
• Kilmarnock (40) nudged ahead of Aberdeen (39) in the race, battle, jog for seventh.
• St Mirren (36) stay ahead of Inverness (32).
• Hibs (27) probably need one more win to breathe easy. Dunfermline (21) probably need three wins from four.