Football Features

Are Rangers the best Scottish Premiership winners this century?

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 14:48, 9 March 2021

So it’s finally official, Glasgow Rangers are champions of Scotland again for the first time in 10 years.

The title is Rangers’ 55th. Yes, seriously. 55 title wins. You could take the most successful title winners in England — Manchester United (20), Liverpool (19) then Ryan Giggs and Arsenal (13) — and altogether they still can’t match Rangers.

55 titles also means they have extended their lead in Europe’s race for top-flight league titles over Linfield (53 league wins) and Celtic (51 wins). It also prevented Celtic from winning the mythic 10 titles in a row; both Rangers and Celtic have done nine straight before but this Celtic run threatened to break into double digits. Not anymore.

Rangers are a figurative mile ahead of Celtic, 20 points is the current total and with an Old Firm derby on the horizon, that gap could soon be an even more embarrassing 23 points.

The gamble Rangers took in appointing Steven Gerrard back in 2018 has paid off handsomely as the Englishman has given Gers fans something to shout about this season by masterminding a truly, staggeringly dominant title win.

But is it the biggest title win this century? Since 1999-2000, has there been a title-winning campaign to top this one? What are the records that are there to be set? Can Rangers set them? Let’s have a look.

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Most points this century: 106 (Celtic 2016-17)

Rangers 2020-21: 88 (six games to play)

Brendan Rodgers got his swagger back with Celtic, taking them all the way to a domestic treble in 2016/17. On the way, they racked up a massive 106 points, with Moussa Dembélé leading the way with 17 league goals.

Gerrard’s Rangers are currently on 88 points so they will have to win every single game left this season to only equal the record. Now, they’ve won their last six across all competitions so it’s definitely feasible, but you’d have to figure there will be some slowdown given they’re juggling Europa League commitments as well (Celtic in 2016-17 were dumped out of Europe in December).

Most wins this century: 34 (Celtic 2016-17)

Rangers 2020-21: 28 (six games to play)

In the process of racking up their 106 points, Celtic won 34 times, drawing on 4 occasions. This incredible feat is again not beatable by Rangers; they can only match the record by winning their remaining six games this season. Can they do it? It’s definitely possible.

Fewest defeats this century: 0 (Celtic 2016-17)

Rangers 2020-21: 0 (six games to play)

As if Celtic weren’t impressive enough in 2016-17, they won the title without losing a single game. That incredible achievement is obviously impossible to be bettered, but Gerrard’s Rangers are on course to equal it. They’ve avoided defeat in every game so far this season and it seems likely they will manage it for the final sextet of games to join Rodgers’ side in becoming “Invincibles.”

Most goals scored this century: 106 (Celtic 2016-17)

Rangers 2020-21: 88 (six games to play)

Rodgers coached Gerrard for the last few years of his career at Liverpool, and Gerrard was known to lament that he didn’t work with someone like Rodgers earlier in his career. He knew Rodgers’ qualities as a coach and so will not be surprised that in addition to all of the previous dominance, Celtic also scored more goals than anyone else has this century.

Rodgers’ Celtic burst the net 106 times, all things told. And with Gerrard’s Rangers currently on 88 goals, the chances for them to break the record are fairly slim. They’re currently 18  goals behind so to even equal it, they’d have to score three times in each of their six remaining games, which isn’t impossible but feels like it would be a stretch especially given the Premiership’s split will mean they will only be playing sides from the league’s top six.

Fewest goals conceded this century: 17 (Celtic 2014-15)

Rangers 2020-21: 9 (six games to play)

For once a record isn’t held by Rodgers’ Celtic, but Ronny Deila’s. The Norwegian coach guided Celtic to an impressive title win with 92 points scored in 2014/15, but what stood out most was that they conceded just 17 goals in their 38 games.

This is a record that Gerrard’s Rangers are more than capable of beating. Under the Englishman, the Gers are incredibly solid as they have conceded just nine goals so far this season. Now, it’s entirely possible that as they go on their victory lap, standards slip and they let eight goals in to rob themselves of this record. But that doesn’t seem likely.

The Verdict?

To be concluded…

As it stands, Rodgers’ Celtic are the gold standard of Scottish football this century. An unbeaten side that also posted records for wins, points and goals scored. They were a force of nature but Gerrard’s Rangers can match every one of their feats and they are well-placed to do much better defensively (Celtic conceded 25 goals that season).

Moreover, although that was Rodgers’ first season in charge at Parkhead, he was inheriting a Celtic squad full of winners that had already claimed five consecutive titles. Moreover, that was Rangers’ first season back in the Premiership so there wasn’t even any real challenge.

Rangers, by contrast, have returned from the brink of extinction. One year after their last title, they were send plunging into bankruptcy and relegated to the third division. They clawed their way back up the table through the Third Division, League Two, the Championship and then finally back into the top flight.

Rangers were good, but they weren’t great, and when they bet on Gerrard he didn’t deliver anything tangible straight away. But they kept the faith and slowly but surely he has built a juggernaut of a team that stands a chance to match every feat of Rodgers’ side with the advantage of it being the club’s first title win in a decade, cutting off their hated rivals from achieving a landmark in the process.

Rangers’ title win is absolutely loaded with football quality and narrative density. If they could manage to equal the key Celtic records and set their own defensive one, who could argue against them being the finest Scottish side of the 21st century?