‘Time to clinch the Cinch’.
A banner held up at Tannadice echoed the thoughts of every Celtic supporters in Tayside last night as Ange Postecoglou’s side looked to wrap up their 10th Scottish Premiership title in 11 years.
Dundee United, who were bidding to secure Europa Conference League football next season, provided a stern test for the Hoops.
Despite being on the cusp of the title following their impressive comeback win over Hearts last weekend, Celtic knew the job still wasn’t complete.
A point was all that the Parkhead club required to restore themselves to the top of Scottish football at a venue which all but ended their ten-in-a-row hopes last season.
Fast forward 14 months and Celtic have been transformed by their new manager following an extensive summer clearout.
An almost completely new side (only Callum McGreogr was in the XI that day) took to the park last night with amibitions of secure the title and a place in the Champions League group stages, while also aiming to extend their unbeaten domestic run to 31 games.
Celtic, who trailed city rivals Rangers by six points on Boxing Day, have been in relentless form this year, dropping just six points in 2022.
Postecoglou rotated his attacking frontline with Jota, Daizen Maeda and Kyogo Furuhashi all dropping to the bench and, as a result, Celtic lacked their usual intensity at times.
Perhaps that was down to nerves with so much at stake but the Hoops were not at their ruthless best and United passed up some good opportunities to take the title race right down to the final day of the season.
With Rangers thrashing Ross County 4-1 at Ibrox, Giorgos Giakoumakis finally wore down a stubborn Tangerines defence on 53 minutes when the imposing Greek striker rose highest to head home Anthony Ralston’s cross.
That led to wild celebrations from the large band of travelling fans but shortly after 16-year-old Rory MacLeod struck the woodwork before Tony Watt did likewise.
Celtic suddenly looked ragged and when Manchester United loanee Dylan Levitt rifled home a spectacular equaliser from 25 yards with 18 minutes remaining, it was game on.
United continued to press and Ryan Edwards headed agonisngly wide of the target from just a few yards out in the closing stages.
Celtic, did manage to steady the ship with Reo Hatate, Maeda and Jota all going close - but they had done enough.
The shreak of referee Nick Walsh’s whistle at full-time was drowned out by a chorus of cheers and songs. Celtic had completed a remarkable turnaround to reclaim the crown.
A visibily emotional Ange Postecoglou had pulled off a miracle.
After all, he took over at a time when the club had relinquished their nine-year grip of the top-flight and were in turmoil last summer.
Even after losing three of their first six league games the Australian didn’t hit the panic button, despite not having his own coaching staff or a head of recruitment in place.
His new-look squad were slowly beginning to find their feet as they attempted to reverse a 25-point deficit to their bitter rivals from last term.
Not only did the likes of Kyogo Furuhashi play a leading role during the first half of the campaign, Postecoglou also has improved players such as full-backs Greg Taylor and Anthony Ralston, who were deemed by large sections of the Hoops faithful as surplus to requirements.
Under the former Yokohama F. Marinos boss, Celtic have made huge strides defensively. Their has been a steely reslience about this Hoops team, epitomised during December’s League Cup final triumph.
Further improvement will be required in the summer if they are to harbour serious ambitions of navigating their way through the Champions League.
But, for now, Celtic can revel in their title celebrations. Skipper Callum McGregor will now prepare to lift the Premiership trophy after their game against Motherwell at Parkhead on Saturday.