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INTERVIEW: Despite Celtic and Liverpool’s huge point swings there will not be any lasting damage to fallen pair, says Gary Gillespie

© SNS GroupOdsonne Edouard celebrated nine-in-a-row last season
Odsonne Edouard celebrated nine-in-a-row last season but Celtic failed to retain their title

The huge points swings suggest fallen champions Celtic and Liverpool have plummeted a long way from heights scaled a year ago.

Celtic coasted home by 13 points – and a vote – yet currently trail newly-crowned Rangers by 20 at the split.

Liverpool are 43 points worse off with majestic Manchester City compared to their title romp of last season.

It’s been a sore one for both clubs to take but, according to Gary Gillespie, there’s no lasting damage.

Indeed, the ex-Anfield and Parkhead defender is convinced they can soothe the pain by hitting back at the first opportunity.

Gillespie said: “When you’ve been in the game a while, nothing should really surprise.

“But I think it’s a bit of a shock to see the points differences. The standards both clubs set were so high.

“Celtic winning a Quadruple Treble is a fantastic achievement. To keep that going is pretty near impossible.

“When Liverpool were so dominant and beating everyone quite comfortably last year, comparisons were made with great teams of the past.

“I certainly believed them capable of, if not dominating the Premier League, at least challenging for years.

“I thought they were that good, with the ideal character and mentality about them to do it.

“But I actually see both clubs bouncing back. Neither needs a major rebuild. A tweak here or there can get them winning leagues and cups.”

Liam Brady brought Gary Gillespie to Celtic © SNS Group
Liam Brady brought Gary Gillespie to Celtic

Gillespie left Liverpool for Glasgow’s east end in 1991 after being part of three championship-winning squads.

One of Liam Brady’s first signings, Gillespie failed to add any silverware to his haul while at Celtic.

There’s no way, he says, this season’s struggles are a sign of barren years to come.

Neil Lennon has gone and chief executive Peter Lawwell and captain Scott Brown will follow.

Gillespie said: “In my time, it felt like we were a million miles behind Rangers.

“As a Celtic fan, we shouldn’t think that way now. Listen, I understand it in Glasgow. I’ve been there finishing behind Rangers, so I know what it’s like. But it’s maybe too early, jumping on the Rangers bandwagon.

“I think the ‘10-in-a-row’ factor weighed too heavily on Celtic and took its toll.

“Add to the equation the truly exceptional season Rangers are having and I’m not sure Celtic would’ve got close anyway.

“Celtic have only lost four games – two to Rangers. I thought Celtic were the better team at New Year and should have got a result.

“They kind of dominated last Sunday in the first half and should have scored more.

“In the head-to-head, there’s not a great deal in it. But the overall consistency of Rangers determined it.

“Scott Brown indicated that, through the season, Celtic just haven’t been at it enough in certain matches.

“I thought Shane Duffy would’ve been a good signing. His Premier League performances were solid.

“Rangers’ defensive record is unreal and that’s where Celtic have been a bit weak. But I think Kris Ajer is still a prospect and Christopher Jullien has been unlucky with injuries.

“The squad itself is good enough to compete. Callum McGregor appears highly thought of there so he could be captain, he’s matured into an all-round midfielder.”

Despair for Neil Lennon as Celtic are defeated by Ross County © Craig Williamson / SNS Group
Despair for Neil Lennon as Celtic are defeated by Ross County

Meanwhile, the heart of Liverpool’s defence was ripped apart by long-term injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.

Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and new signing Diogo Jota also missed significant time.

A slump from 18 wins and one draw at Anfield in 2019/20 to six consecutive home defeats in 48 days has seen Jurgen Klopp’s side sink to seventh.

With big names back fit, Gillespie predicts Liverpool can stage a full recovery.

“If any of Liverpool’s rivals suffered those injuries to so many key players, they’d struggle,” he said.

“In fact, Man City had absentees at centre-back last season and look what happened.

“Van Dijk is the huge loss because he’s such an integral part of the way Liverpool play.

“Gomez, Matip, Henderson – not just great players but influential characters all missing on a regular basis.

“Allison has been out a few times as well, don’t forget. It’s 19 different partnerships at centre-half. That’s unheard of.

“Getting them back will be huge and there will be money to spend, too.”

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp © Matt West/BPI/Shutterstock
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp

Should Liverpool return to form, Rangers could reap benefits. Steven Gerrard is forever linked with his former club but Gillespie noted: “If Liverpool bounce back, then that goes away.

“When you’re winning titles, no one questions anything. For what Jurgen Klopp has achieved and with three years left on his contract, I’d be very surprised if he goes anywhere soon.

“And from what I know of Steven he’s a genuine bloke who’ll still want to achieve at Rangers.”