The Old Firm divide
Wisely or not, this blog decided over the weekend to stick its nose into the current kerfuffle between those two friendly members of the “Old Firm” – Celtic and Rangers, both of the Glasgow parish (I use that word in its loosest possible sense). This latest spat has arisen from the decision of some Celtic fans to take out an ad in a Scottish Sunday paper, announcing to the world that they don’t recognise the post Ibrox crisis Rangers as the club that has existed since March of 1872 (they somehow managed to survive those first 16 years before Celtic were formed to give their lives some meaning…)
For these bright, media-savvy Bhoys, who invested a cool three grand into said advert, the team currently playing as Rangers is a new one that the mighty Celtic have no history with. Old Rangers are dead, they say. The Old Firm is dead. 126 years of history can simply be wished – or advertised – away, apparently. All specious nonsense, of course – but understandably, feelings are running high on both sides, as each attempts to out-justify the other.
My main aim in writing the original article (and one previous follow-up) was simply to highlight the advert nonsense, point out my quaintly romantic notion that a football club is about fans, history and tradition and not money, corporations and receivers – and then leave the combatants to get on with it. Which they did, and at some length too. They’re still at it, you can faintly hear the hullabaloo, just a few blogs back. And I have to say, wading through all that comment and counter-comment has opened my eyes to the depths of the mutual hatred up there. At times, it was like bobbing for apples in a cesspit.
I also have to say that, of the two, my sympathies are more and more with the Rangers lot – whereas prior to all of this, I always struggled to decide who I wanted to win a particular Old Firm match. I watched mainly for the blood and studs spectacle of it all – real old school stuff that you don’t see in England outside of a women’s hockey international.
It became clearer and clearer to me though that the Celtic side of things reminded me, more and more, of the attitude struck by those old foes of Leeds United from the Theatre of Hollow Myths – on the wrong side of the Pennines. You know the sort of thing – biggest and best, greatest in the world, don’t you dare say a word against us, blah blah blah. The fans of the Pride of Devon – as we fondly refer to Man U hereabouts – have swallowed all the propaganda, hook line and sinker. They really believe all the merchandise market-inspired guff the media feed them, and they recycle it as fact. Laughable, if irritating. We all know a deluded scum fan – so you know what I mean. But the club itself is just as bad, always wanting an unfair advantage, always demanding the benefit of the doubt, always cynically cheating, lying and manipulating – even now that Ferguson is history. And so, to an extent, it appears to be with Glasgow Celtic.
The quote below is from a Rangers fan in the thick of the argument that has been raging on this blog for a few days now. There is so much there that reminds me irresistibly of Man U and the way they try to go about getting the best of everything and sod everyone else. It’s a really, really harsh thing to say – but aren’t Celtic simply Man U-Lite?
“So, did Celtic play by the rules when they signed Juninho using the same EBT scheme that their support slaughter Rangers for. Did they play by the rules when we got to the UEFA final and asked for an extension to the season to avoid playing four games in one week? I think your CEO said that you were going on a Far East tour and couldn’t agree. Did those matches ever take place? What about the game you got cancelled following the death of a player who had left you years previously? If you can’t remember it then it was when you were in the middle of an injury crisis. Remember the qame where you had to beat our score to win the league and your star striker accused the team we beat at home 6-1 of cheating while his team mates accused the goalkeeper of the team you were beating 4-0 at the same time away from home of trying too hard. I think you even missed a penalty that day. What about when you caused a referee strike in Scotland and we had to import refs from Europe because you said they were all cheats?
Oh you play by the rules all right. That’s why you ran to the SFA to try and get titles and trophies stripped from us so that you could jump from our shadows. You knew the rules all right when you got the Swiss team thrown out of Europe who had just humped you and then a few years later your knowledge of the rules came to the fore again when Legia had to get thrown out of the CL after also humping you because a player they had assumed had served a suspension played two minutes when they were 6-1 up on aggregate. Remember a few weeks later when you signed the guy on loan and you went to the SPL and said I know we signed him late however it is just a technicality …..don’t be sticking to them rules.
Playing by the rules…..pass the sick bucket.”
I’ve purposely posted that in blue, so that no Celtic eye will be able to read it and thus suffer some hurt to their tender feelings. But, for the rest of us, there’s this ineffable sense of one club trying to run the game – of the tail trying to wag the dog, north of the border, just as it has been over two decades in England. It’s all so undesirably familiar, so tiresomely reminiscent of the way in which Man U have gone about dominating English football ever since Murdoch bought it for them in 1992, after one too many failed title bids, thwarted by our own beloved Whites.
Given the tradition whereby Celtic fans tend to have Man U as a second team, their “English” team (Rangers are more yer Liverpool), I suppose most Celts won’t be in the least offended by a comparison between them and the Pride of Devon. But believe me, it’s not intended in a good way – most football fans who haven’t swallowed all the market-driven media pap would confirm that it’s a mortal insult to be compared to such a plastic franchise. But there you go – none so blind as those who won’t see.
A footnote to the original issue of whether or not Celtic fans genuinely consider there is no history between their lordly selves and Rangers FC in the here and now: I said it would be interesting to see the reaction among the packed Bhoys at one end of the ground if and when their favourites scored. And it was interesting – if utterly predictable. They celebrated, of course – and they celebrated wildly, exploding with delight, as though their team had defeated Real Madrid themselves in a Champions League Final. The noise damn near knocked out one of my trusty LG flatscreen speakers as the hooped hordes yelled, screamed and cavorted in triumph. Not that they were remotely bovvered, of course. Because Rangers FC means nothing to them now. Right, Bhoys?
Talk about posturing for effect. Talk about self-delusion, and striking an attitude that doesn’t stand up to any serious examination. Talk about being exactly like the intrinsically detestable Man U – the club we routinely refer to as “the scum”. Ask yourselves: can Celtic really claim to be any better than that?