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THE league table never lies but sometimes it doesn’t tell the whole story of the season. Billy Dodds knows that as well as anyone.
A glance at the final standings from the 1999/2000 campaign shows Rangers winning the SPL title by 21 points as they lost only two matches under the guidance of Dick Advocaat.
Come May, Steven Gerrard’s side could beat that achievement as they look to increase their current 20 point advantage over Celtic and land their first major silverware in a decade.
The outcome of the title race is a foregone conclusion but Rangers now have the chance to really hammer home their superiority as they seek to maintain their unbeaten Premiership run.
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Dodds would score 15 goals for the Gers following his move from Dundee United in December 1999 and admits the race for the SPL crown wasn’t as straightforward as the final result would make some believe.
“I can see why people would say that but I have thought about this a lot this season and it wasn’t always the case that season,” Dodds told and Times Sport.
“We had to get a draw in the Old Firm at New Year to keep us seven points ahead. They were up 1-0 and it was my Old Firm debut, I scored and that kept it at seven.
“They took the lead through Mark Viduka and if they had won it would have been down to four so we knew how pivotal it was.
“Of course keeping your focus comes with the territory when you are that far ahead. That game was vital and we kept adding to it.
“It was incredible that we won it by 21 points and then the following season we got beat by 25 when Martin O’Neill came in.
“The turnaround in points was incredible and there is a comparison there because of what has happened with Celtic.
“They have won it out the park for so long and then suddenly they have capitulated, like we did.
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“For me, it is recruitment. We felt it that season, we made a few signings and it wasn’t their fault, but there was just something that wasn’t quite right.
“You get the feeling that is what has happened to Celtic this year and their recruitment has been so bad, and everything in terms of their other issues has stemmed from that.”
The campaign that brought in the new millennium was famously the year that Super Caley went ballistic and John Barnes was sacked as boss just weeks after the Old Firm draw at Parkhead.
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This time around, Celtic once again haven’t had their troubles to seek on and off the park as Neil Lennon has found himself under huge pressure and the spotlight has shone on the boardroom following a wretched signing record and the ill-fated trip to Dubai.
Through all the commotion and the controversy, Rangers have kept their cool. As it was twenty years ago, that will prove to be the mark of champions this term.
Dodds said: “Once we kept it at seven points, it was just a mentality thing. We played it down, we didn’t shout from the rooftops and there has definitely been a different approach from Rangers this season that I think has helped them.
“They are watching Celtic implode and watching it all develop, but the one thing you have to say about Rangers is that, from the start, they have been so impressive and relentless.
“Even if Celtic had been more competitive and really pushing it, I think it would have been hard for them to beat Rangers this season. The record they have and the stats they have, Celtic would have been doing well to stick with them even if they didn’t have their problems.
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“Rangers have been incredible and they have handled every department. It is that focus.
“We proved it then and Rangers are proving it now. Celtic are imploding and that is making it easier for Rangers, but Celtic would have struggled to keep up with them with they way Rangers have gone about their business.”
It was April 2000 that Advocaat’s side were crowned champions as Celtic were held at home by Hibernian and Rangers had their 11th title in 12 years.
The Gers are now at the stage of when rather than if they follow their illustrious predecessors into the Ibrox history books. Gerrard and his players have been through a lot, but this success will make it all worth it.
Dodds said: “I think this year they will be laughing, or I would say having a wee wry smile to themselves. Celtic have made it easier for them, but they would have struggled to live with Rangers anyway.
“In seasons gone by, we have seen it go to the last day of the season and that is no laughing matter then because it is just pressure, sheer pressure.
“There have been times when one side has run away from each other but when it is nip and tuck, you don’t get much laughing and joking. Then it is focus, it is pressure, it is winning and you have to keep that mentality.
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“Rangers, to their credit, are keeping their focus when they don’t really have to, to be honest. They probably are laughing because Celtic are just making so many bad decisions and adding to their woes.
“They will have a wry smile and wee giggle at how it has worked out and is developing in front of their eyes.
“But Rangers have kept their mouth shut, learned from last season and it has given them an edge. The way they have gone about it is exceptional, whether Celtic are struggling or not.”