18 Dec Exclusive: Rangers return will ease Celtic ‘crisis’ , says O’Neill
Martin O’Neill believes Rangers’ return to the Scottish Premiership will strengthen Celtic and help ease the “little bit of a crisis” they find themselves in.
The Ibrox outfit are currently on course to return to the top division as they lead the way in the Championship having started again in the bottom tier of Scottish football after being liquidated in 2012.
Since Rangers’ exit from the top flight, Celtic’s results in Europe have suffered, with the Hoops having failed to reach the group stages of the Champions League in the past two seasons.
And former Celtic boss O’Neill says the return of Rangers will help Ronny Deila’s men in their quest for European success.
“I think obviously the lack of money has created a little bit of a crisis there [at Celtic] for a start,” he told PLZ Soccer.
“And, naturally, [it’s been hard] with Rangers being demoted for financial irregularities and things like that so the SPL needs a very strong Celtic and a strong Rangers.”
Asked if the league would be stronger with the return of Rangers, he said: “Absolutely, and with Hearts, Hibs, a strong Aberdeen side and Dundee United and Dundee.
“When I was there we would go to Dundee United and Dundee and be absolutely delighted, relieved if we’d won the match as these games were really difficult.
“I’m not saying they are easy now but at the moment Celtic are the strongest side in the league when Rangers come back, I personally think it’ll make Celtic stronger again.
“The concern always is if you weaken it badly enough then you’ll probably find it difficult competing against the sides in the qualifying stages in Europe for the Champions League and things like that.”
O’Neill admitted he had sympathy for Deila who hasn’t had the same funds to spend on players to help their assault in Europe.
“Yes, of course, you have sympathy for him in Europe. You want to compete in European football with the likes of Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid in the Champions League and you want the fans to get excited for those European nights.
“Those times were extraordinary brilliant as were the Rangers games as well but that didn’t mean other nights weren’t great so, it would be nice to get that feel-good factor at the club and hopefully in time that will develop.”
On the calls for Rangers to be stripped of titles – after their use of Employment Benefit Trusts (EBTs) between the years of 2001 and 2010 was found to have breached tax rules after HMRC successfully appealed their case in November, O’Neill, who was in charge of Celtic at that time, said that would bring him no satisfaction.
“I wouldn’t take any great consolation over that,” he said. “We lost the title against Motherwell on the last day of the season and it doesn’t matter what happened elsewhere; to me on the field is where it counts.”