'Champion team show rivals how to get it done again'

Three hours before kick-off at Hampden, the epitome of optimism was walking up and down Aikenhead Road.

He had a desperate look on his face and an old piece of cardboard above his head with a plaintive cry written on it: Any Spare Tickets?

For the first Old Firm Scottish Cup final since Adam Idah was a year old - doubtful.

Dressed in neutral colours - he wasn’t limiting his chances by wearing green or blue - you fancy that he was still on the outside when this game began against a backdrop of smoke bombs at one end and fireworks at the other.

In the clash of the Glasgow heavyweights, Rangers the underdogs were ahead on points with a minute to go. They’d hustled and harried Celtic all day.

Their midfield trio - Mohamed Diomande, Nicolas Raskin and Dujon Sterling - were in the faces of men who have dominated them all season.

Diomande was class. Sterling was so busy all over the pitch you wondered how many of him were actually out there.

Then, the knockout blow. Out of the blue, so to speak.

A rare lapse in concentration in letting them through, a goalkeeper exposed and a shot spilled by Jack Butland, a man who has been their totem since the summer.

Celtic had done it again. Another trophy. Nineteen of the last 24 domestic titles now.

Four wins in five this season over their city rivals, all by a goal, not that it matters. Brendan Rodgers has a double at the end of a deeply challenging season.

This was a battle for Celtic and it might feel all the sweeter because of it.

For Rangers, who turned up with a vengeance, and went toe-to-toe all day, it’ll have been crushing.

They managed to contain all of Celtic’s main threats, but still lost. They were forceful in midfield and dogged in defence, and still they left as beaten men.

Rodgers will bask in this double and use it as a springboard for the changes he’ll be keen to make in the summer, changes that he’s wanted to make in the last two transfer windows.

Quality over quantity is his mantra and he’s in a position of maximum strength now to get more of what he wants before the big show begins anew in the relative blink of an eye.

There is a party to attend but also work to be done.

He needs a new goalkeeper, Joe Hart bidding a glorious farewell at Hampden. He needs a left-back to put some heat on Greg Taylor.

Maybe he’ll need a replacement for Matt O’Riley, too.

O’Riley was not allowed to be influential in the final, but he’s been a huge performer for Rodgers. Nineteen goals and 18 assists is an outrageous return. Will Atletico Madrid return for him? It would hardly be a surprise.

There’s a decision to be made on Idah, now a folklore hero after his winner.

His arrival in January couldn’t have been met with a more underwhelming response from Celtic fans, but he’s been a powerhouse, a consistent goalscorer in limited game time and he’s now a cup final hero.

He’s 23 years old with a price tag of a reported £6m, if his parent club Norwich City are prepared to play ball.

Coming into this final, his Premiership goals per shots was the best in the league. This was his second Old Firm goal in three games.

On current form, he has the edge on Kyogo Furuhashi in terms of threat and age.

What next for him? Listening to Idah post-match you got the sense that he’d like to stay where he is. This is a big call for Celtic now.

These are nice problems for Rodgers.

He can make decisions sure in the knowledge that vast piles of Champions League loot is coming the club’s way, perhaps £40m and beyond.

Ambition beckons, surely for the Celtic board. Not fiscal recklessness, not mad gambles, but a loosening of the purse strings to reflect a club wishing to win more games in Europe as well as winning the domestic prizes.

Celtic have a lot of players on their books and here, in an ideal world, there are opportunities.

Alexandro Bernabei, Sead Haksabanovic, Mikey Johnston, Oh Hyeon-gyu, Marco Tilio and, remarkably, James McCarthy are still Celtic players.

There are other bit-part, or no-part, players taking a wage. Move some of them on and the coffers look even healthier and Rodgers’ freedom to add bits of class only increases. Whoever’s charge with doing that work will have to get busy.

Rodgers’ first-choice starting line-up is still, largely, an Ange Postecoglou team.

He’ll want to put his own stamp on it after some of the misfiring in the last two windows. Some clever tinkering and it’s hard to see how Rangers get all that close to them next season.

'Clement has work to do in crucial summer'

Clement’s side could scarcely have made it harder for Celtic at Hampden.

They scored a goal to take the lead but a wholly unnecessary push by Raskin on Hart saw it ruled out.

Had Raskin just stood his ground, Hart wasn’t reaching that delivery and that goal would have been good. That’ll be a tormenting truth for Rangers people.

Rangers surprised many of us. No Connor Goldson, no John Souttar and Borna Barisic in the wilderness pending his departure. That’s three of Clement’s regular back four.

Leon Balogun, 35, was only just back from injury, but he was terrific at the back. Ben Davies had played four times since December, but was also a strong performer. Ridvan Yilmaz was left-back despite just over two hours of football in two months.

They all put in serious shifts, as did the midfielders ahead of them, or most of them.

The goal at the end was cruel. For all of the good things in their performance it ended with a kick to the solar plexus. Again.

Clement has an amount of work to do. If Rodgers just needs to find extra pockets of class, Clement needs the guts of a new team.

Goldson, James Tavernier, Barisic, Kemar Roofe and John Lundstram may all be leaving. Loads of experience off the books, but loads of wages available for a rebuild, too.

Fabio Silva will return to England. Todd Cantwell? At one point, in the pulling and dragging on the pitch, his manager gave him a shove to get him off the scene. Perhaps he should keep shoving.

Clement still has Sam Lammers, Jose Cifuentes and Ianis Hagi - all out on loan. Will he want any of them? It’s hard to see it.

He’ll want to keep Abdallah Sima. The forward might cost £6m from Brighton but he tends to deliver consistently and is the type he needs.

Right now, there are too many unreliables at Rangers, too much mediocrity.

The manager has already brought in a left-back, the 20-year-old Brazilian Jefte, but that’ll just be the start of it.

The performances of Diomande and Sterling will give him great heart, but he needs more operators in their image.

Clement will need a lie down after this. Then, he’ll need to rise up and get back to the tough business of chasing a champion team who just know how to get it done.