GLASGOW: Celtic slunk away from their surprise League Cup Final defeat by Kilmarnock amid renewed speculation about their ambition to quit Scottish football and build a new future in English football.

A late headed goal by Belgian substitute Dieter van Tornhout ended Celtic hopes of a treble after they were reported by The People as having initiated exploratory talks which would see them start a new existence in the third tier of English football.

Celtic and Old Firm rivals Rangers had been in contact previously with English clubs when the latter were considering whether to seek to create a Premier League Two. That idea was abandoned but talk of the Glasgow Two heading south has never vanished totally – partly because their own ambitions and following have outstripped their financial strength.

The extent to which both clubs had been tempted to ‘live the dream’ has been exposed by the financial collapse of Rangers which has brought Scotland’s record champions to the brink of bankruptcy.

However Rangers may survive it is clear that they will not have the resources to raise any realistic challenge to Celtic for several years to come. This realisation is the factor which has propelled Celtic into reviving their interest in exploring the possibility of a move south.

The prospect of Celtic playing at English League One level has its attractions. It would be a massive boost for the competition, creating worldwide interest – with gates boosted at some struggling clubs and vast TV and commercial spinoffs. Celtic would almost certainly be promoted within a year and, possibly, go straight on up through the Championship into the Premier League after a further season.

The plan may be put to Football League clubs at the end of this season.

An example of how a major club can maintain support and status while rebuilding from the third division has been evidence in recent years in Italy by Napoli – who reached the second round of the Champions League this season before losing narrowly to Chelsea last week.

In the SPL Celtic started the day with a massive 21-point lead over Rangers – who have been deducted 10 points for going into administration – and Motherwell.

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