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Celtic winning title at Ibrox is an opportunity for Scottish Football

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Has there ever been a season quite like it in Scottish football? By November 5th Celtic trailed Old Firm rivals Rangers by 15 points and Neil Lennon was left considering his future. Fast forward just over 3 months and a quick glance at the SPL table reveals Celtic now leading the way by 17 points in a remarkable 32 point swing.  To their credit Celtic overturned the 15 point deficit on merit; regaining top spot with a 1-0 win against Rangers at Celtic Park on 28th December. The staggering size of their lead now however is, to a significant degree, a result of Rangers’ 10 point deduction following the clubs slide into administration. 

Rangers’ fans would have understandably assumed that there was no feeling worse than a defeat to bitter rivals Celtic, especially one which results in the succession of top spot in the league. Conversely, much, much worse was lurking ominously on the horizon for the Ibrox club as an unpaid tax bill threatens liquidation of the famous 140 year Glasgow club.

In terms of the future of the clubs existence the consequences of Ranger’s financial infidelities remains uncertain with the situation appearing as clear as muddy highland swamp. An assertion illustrated by news that, in addition to Rangers unpaid tax bill, criminal proceedings may follow as the club fail to locate £24million pounds effectively loaned to the club by its fans. Easily done I’m sure you will agree.

A consequence much easier to identify as a result of Ranger’s punishment is the potential for Celtic to win the league in the bitter rivals own backyard, depending on the results of the two Old Firm clubs in their respective fixtures between now and the 17th March.

Understandable Concerns

This eventuality has been identified as a significant threat to public order by the Strathclyde Police with a fixture re-arrangement the most drastic nullification attempt being touted. In fairness to the Glasgow authorities this is totally understandable especially when considering the unsavoury scenes that marred Scottish footballs flagship fixture last season. Seditious behaviour from both clubs respective playing and coaching staffs including the two clubs current managers was coupled by numerous supporter arrests in and outside the ground in scenes labelled “embarrassing” by the SFA.  

Concerns over public order are even more comprehensible when taking a glance at less immediate Old Firm history. Chaos ensued when Rangers’ historic opportunity to win the SPL at Parkhead in 1999 was greeted with pitch invasions and missiles from the Celtic crowd, one of which struck the head of referee Hugh Dallas in what was a shameful day for Scottish Football.

Yet,  it is this discreditable recent history which makes the potential for Ibrox to be the scene as Celtics triumph an opportunity to create a much needed positive advert for the Scottish game. Although highly unlikely a re-arrangement of the fixture, or even talk of it, almost makes a mockery of the Old Firm and the SPL as its two most famous clubs can’t be trusted to compete against one another in such circumstances. It’s a depressing acceptance that relations between the two halves of Glasgow can never be improved, sectarianism never tempered.

One may deduce that acceptance of the mutual vitriolic hatred even acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy for both sets of supporters, potentially acting up to the Old Firms troubled history.  For the Old Firm and the SFA this is a could instead be seen as case of nothing ventured nothing gained.

Possible Opportunity

An opportunity for Celtic as a club and it’s well respected manager to reach out to their supporters to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner, that for sure involves mockery of their rivals and boasts of a 43rd League title, rightly so even, but leaves overt sectarian hatred at the turnstile. A gesture which can be matched by Rangers’ and there equally respected manager, encouraging counter chants focusing on their superior league title haul of 54 for example, rather than sectarian divisions.

Rangers’ fans would have a chance to separate themselves from the reckless and irresponsible behaviour of their now infamous owners and unlike the aforesaid be a credit to their club. The majority of fans from both sides of Glasgow already are but it is a chance for the misdemeanours of the significant minority to be addressed.

If the situation arises, there is a prospect for Celtic players and coaching staff to greet clinching the title at Ibrox with professionalism and humility as well as joy, whilst avoiding inflammatory celebrations. Similarly, for Rangers’ players there will be a chance to accept defeat in the title race with grace despite inevitable disappointment, an example which can cool supporter’s tensions.

Admittedly, such talk is academic if the situation never rises and in the event that it does the safety of supporters is rightly of paramount importance to the authorities when planning for the fixture. Likewise, such opinion can be easily and even rightly criticised by the fact I’m not Glaswegian, have never experienced the deep rooted social tensions present in Scotland’s biggest city and thus am unrealistic and fanciful to indulge in such unrealistic expectations.

It is important to stress though that this is not an argument for what will happen but instead an illustration of the watershed moment an incident free (off the field at least) Old Firm Derby, in such circumstances, could provide for Scottish Football. After all the negative issues surrounding Scottish footballs most famous clubs over the past two years, it would be a great foundation for a more positive future.

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Comments (13)

  1. An article that tries to be balanced but once again history REWITTEN to suit an agenda. The so called “shame game” in 2011 was an embarrassment for Rangers whose players, manager and fans were an absolute disgrace. Only McCoist deliberately bating Lennon when lennon offered a handshake gave the compliant media an out to call it an O** F*** problem. Never read the rest… Waste of time…

  2. You should try to get a ticket for the game and then afterwards come back here and explain why you now realise your wish was completely “unrealistic and fanciful,” to use your own words.

    Never mind the Old Firm, if this was Man U v Liverpool, Southampton v Portsmouth, hell even Norwich v Ipswich the fans of team A would still love to get it up the fans of team B.

  3. Tom, you should stick to writing about the game in England as you clearly do not understand the nature of football rivalry in Glasgow. There is no need for anyone to reach out to Celtic fans to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner, they always do and have won many plaudits for it.

    You’ll find it is the behaviour of rangers fans which has given the police cause for concern and it is there you will find the overt sectarian hatred you mention, so forcefully demonstrated by the crowd at their last home game.

    Are you actually suggesting that it’s the responsibility of Celtic fans to ensure that rangers supporters don’t go on the rampage (as they’re notoriously inclined to do)?

    The ridiculousness of your argument aside, you’ll find you’re wasting your time. Rangers fans will revert to type at some point, whether it be Celtic taking the title, their club going into liquidation, or somebody forgetting to take the green straws out of the refreshment kiosks. Wives will be beaten, celtic fans attacked, pubs trashed, and buffoons like you will line up to make excuses for them and blame it on somebody else. Sad.

  4. Great Artical,

    If only this was the case but the chances of the final whistle being the final say in this tie (If it does come to be) are slim to none at best.

  5. So what you are saying , Rangers lose there will be problems ,like when Rangers lost last season to Celtic problems on and off the pitch ( red cards to rangers players only ) arose , when Rangers lost in Manchester problems arose you , Rangers v Kilmarnock sectarian chants and singing of banned racist songs and not by a small minority , are you seeing a pattern forming here , Rangers don,t do losing gracefully and by the statenments s coming from Police and media they don,t do Rangers losing either ,never hear any of this guff when Rangers win and finally if there is so much concern over and “old firm ” fixture maybe the SPL would be better without it

  6. Oh come off it..How many “sectarian chants” did u hear when celtic fans partied at hibs on sunday? Meanwhile as the eyes of the world were on Rangers fans in their showpiece game to show everyone just how great a support they were in times of trouble, what did we get as they played a team whos fans its widely accepted would be more liking of them than Celtic??? Nothing but vile sectarian anti-catholic vitirol..so dream on if u expect that particular leopard to EVER change its spots..
    In cheekiness, how many of those 54 were won by “financial doping” i.e. CHEATING?!

  7. I feel the need to point out to the author that it is primarily the Rangers supporters who partake in sectarian chanting. Check their most recent home game and have a listen.
    Celtic fans sing more about Irish republicanism and this can occasionally include references to the IRA. In truth, they mean the PIRA but it is entirely understandable that people would be offended by this. Offensive to some? – yes. Sectarian? – no. It is political more than anything else.
    That said, it is probably best for them to stick to songs that don’t mention the IRA, particularly given the lack of education we British people have received on British-Irish relations and history.

    As for the main point of the article, it is indeed an opportunity to mend the reputation somewhat. Sadly, I don’t think anything other than a Rangers victory will have this desired result, given they have a larger element of their support who don’t take defeat well – Manchester anyone?
    The media continually talking about this game will only serve to ramp up the tension and exacerbate the situation. Frequently talking about the potential for trouble could, to borrow a phrase from you article, serve to facilitate a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  8. Financial Doping indeed. How many of those Rangers titles are tainted? That is the question.

    God Bless you Tommy Burns, you were robbed by Rangers financial doping and the SFA (Jorge Cadete, anyone)

  9. I feel I pre-empted this response in my article by saying that this was more an analysis of an opportunity rather than the actual eventuality.

    However, Steve I think to paint Celtic fans and management as angels and Rangers as villains after the cup tie is bias in the extreme. If memory serves me rightly Neil Lennon put his hands to his ears to the Rangers fans. Rangers were probably more culpable but this article was directed at both clubs to show a more united front with absolutely no alliegance to either.

    Nevertheless, I appreciate everyones feedback

    • I liked the article and wish the fans could actually rise above the hatred. Rangers fans could indeed help their cause by not responding badly, and may well as they should see any victory as less important than their current situation and losing the league is inevitable anyway.

      The comment that did make me chuckle though was:
      “An opportunity for Celtic as a club and it’s well respected manager…..”
      Not a description often used for him.

      You are right though, it has indeed been quite a season!

  10. He was sent bullets , beaten to a pulp in the street , has to have round the clock security , demonised by the media , moves his family to save houses , ask for clarification and the referees go on strike attacked while doing his job and gets constant sectarian and vile abuse from so called football supportres ..how dare Neil Lennon put his hands to his ears.. the cheek of him

  11. Celtic had less fans arrested than Rangers had yellow cards in Celtic Park at last year’s so-called Shame Game – 9 fans out of 56,000 or so. That’s no bad.

    It’s clear from Alec Salmond’s recent pleading on Rangers behalf why both sides were tarred with that game’s brush, and this particular game became a political issue, but the facts don’t lie.

    There’s no other league in the world that gerrymanders the schedule in the way the SPL does via this ridiculous “split” system.

    It is to Celtic’s shame that a so-called fan threw a coin 13 years ago, doubly so that it hit Hugh Dallas whose contentious decisions had heightened tensions in a must-win match to boiling point.

    Hugh Dallas bleeding on the pitch is something no-one will see again, the former head of Scottish referees who was sacked for an anti-Catholic email prior to the Pope’s recent visit, but let’s get this into context, it was an isolated incident over a decade ago.

    When Celtic visited Tynecastle recently, the ground where a Hearts fan ran onto the pitch and assaulted the Celtic manager, there was no suggestion of drastic measures, they simply beefed up security. Surely if the authorities are prepared for a high-stakes game, they just plan accordingly?

  12. Astonishing comments from the Celtic fans on here; you’d think butter wouldn’t melt in their collective mouth.

    The reason people are worried about Celtic winning the league at Ibrox is because of what Celtic fans did at Parkhead in 1999 when Rangers won the league there.

    All but one commenter ignores this fact, and even the one who does mention it describes it as an “isolated incident” by a “so-called Celtic fan”. Did this Partick Thistle supporter get a bag of 10p coins in change from the pie shop and share the wealth with his pals from Firhill? Because there was a lot more than just the one coin thrown on the park that day from the Celtic end.

    Lift the blinkers, bhoys, and you’ll have more credibility. Your pants are more on fire than Damarcus Beasley’s car, the torching of which was another “isolated incident.”

    Just like the isolated attack on Ally Maxwell at Parkhead, and the isolated attack on Dida of AC Milan (fair enough he dived, but still a loony on the park), and the isolated publishing of Nacho Novo’s address on a Celtic messageboard.

    There are scum who follow Rangers – I saw plenty of them in Manchester – but don’t kid on your fellow fans are angels.

    I’ve said all I’m going to say, so respond as you like. The original article was daft and this comment thread shows why.