Celtic slumps as dominance finally threatened in Scotland

FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020 file photo, Celtic manager Neil Lennon looks on prior to the Europa League round of 32, second leg soccer match between Celtic and FC Copenhagen at the Celtic Park stadium in Glasgow, Scotland. Scottish giant Celtic is in crisis and its manager is fighting for his job. The Glasgow team has had an unprecedented run of sustained success in recent years but is out of European competition already and 11 points behind great rival Rangers in a faltering bid for a record 10th straight Scottish Premiership title.  (AP Photo/Scott Heppell, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020 file photo, Celtic manager Neil Lennon looks on prior to the Europa League round of 32, second leg soccer match between Celtic and FC Copenhagen at the Celtic Park stadium in Glasgow, Scotland. Scottish giant Celtic is in crisis and its manager is fighting for his job. The Glasgow team has had an unprecedented run of sustained success in recent years but is out of European competition already and 11 points behind great rival Rangers in a faltering bid for a record 10th straight Scottish Premiership title. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

A police helicopter circled above Celtic Park as riot vans lined up outside the stadium, surrounding the cars of players while officers struggled to hold back angry fans.

It was like a scene from yesteryear, certainly nothing that should have been happening while heavy social restrictions were in place during a pandemic. And certainly nothing that has been witnessed for some time at a soccer club that has won trophy after trophy in the Scottish game in one of the most successful periods in its history.

Before long, some Celtic fans would be kicking down barriers and clashing with police officers — two of whom were injured — while others lobbed what police called projectiles at the team’s shell-shocked players.

It was Sunday evening and Celtic had just been upset in a 2-0 loss to Ross County in the Scottish League Cup, ending a 35-match winning run in domestic cup competitions and marking the first time since 1958 that the team has been defeated in four straight home games.

Neil Lennon, Celtic’s increasingly embattled coach, couldn’t fail to hear the commotion as he walked into his post-match media conference. Foul-mouthed chants toward Lennon were clearly audible.

“It’s not been great,” Lennon said, “but there’s plenty of time to turn it around.”

Lennon, though, will do well to get through this crisis.

Eliminated from Europa League contention after just four of six group games, 11 points behind great Glasgow rival Rangers in the Scottish Premiership — albeit with two games in hand — and now out of a domestic cup for the first time since 2016, these are bad times for a club of Celtic’s stature and recent dominance.