Celtic’s pursuit of a 10th consecutive title doesn’t necessarily require Edward’s involvement, but Neil Lennon would clearly prefer to retain the services of Scotland’s best player. The heavy impact of Covid-19 on Celtic’s finances, Champions League aspirations, unorthodox transfer window dates and an important sell clause retained by PSG are not trivial subplots. The same goes for whether or not Edward wants to continue the story in Scotland or thinks he deserves tougher tests after three years in green and white. This demonstration has at least demonstrated that its concentration remains intact.
“He’s a special talent,” Lennon said. “He started the season brilliantly. He’s got so much to his game and what I’ve enjoyed over the past 12-15 months is the number of goals he’s scored. Really important goals, different kinds of goals.
“We don’t want him to go anywhere. He would be the first to say today that it was a team effort, but he produced three real striker goals. Today it was about winning. Win and win well. We did both. Considering this is the first game in four or five months, it’s a brilliant comeback.
Lennon has suggested that it is “pivot” for Edward to stay in place, a message that will not be ignored by Celtic’s board. He stole the show as a dynamic Celtic refuted any theory that playing at home under 60,000 fans would have a damaging impact.
Hamilton had no reason to be appalled by their performance – in the first half in particular, they traded blows with the champions – but eventually a huge classroom sinkhole showed. Celtic started the afternoon by revealing the league flag for the title number nine in a row; by the end of the game, they had simply approved their status as favorites for a perfect 10. Celtic had 25 shots and had 80% possession. The more things change, etc.
Hamilton’s early flirtations with the home goal meant a clever save from Andrew Winter’s Scott Bain and a David Moyo header coming right past. Celtic responded with a great shot, which ended with Greg Taylor’s cross brought home by Edward. Taylor was the supplier of number two again, Jeremie Frimpong this time flying to the far post to score. Celtic’s style is such that Frimpong and Taylor can enjoy as auxiliary offensive players at the national level. Both have enjoyed a fine afternoon here, with Hamilton’s defense steadily penetrating in depth.
Scott Martin’s twice deflected shot gave the visitors hope for an unlikely turnaround, but it was extinguished within eight minutes of the start of the second half. Edward converted a James Forrest cross, after staying cautiously on the game, before hanging on to Ryan Fulton’s save on a Ryan Christie drive to complete his hat trick. Patryk Klimala, introduced for Edward in the dying minutes, scored his first competitive goal from an angle shot after Christopher Jullien gave him an excellent long-distance pass.
“I am disappointed to lose five goals, but Hamilton will not be judged in the games against Celtic,” said manager Brian Rice. How perfectly correct. Celtic people don’t want or need a new normal. Continuing their dominance over Scotland will suit Lennon perfectly. If Edouard wants to be part of it, so much the better for Celtic.