I was told, not so long ago, to carefully consider any post I might make in the public domain regarding either side of the Old Firm. I was told that, no matter how good the piece was or how valid the opinions therein, the Old Firm clubs and their fans were such a hot potato that many bloggers choose to leave well alone.
Good advice at first glance, you might think. But I’ve also seen others in the public eye – singers, songwriters, authors – say that it’s best to write about what you know. So that’s what I’m going to do.
Anyone who knows me will tell you I’ve been a close follower of Scottish football since my childhood in the 1990s. I grew up in the era of the great Rangers sides of the David Murray era, managed by Graeme Souness and, later, Walter Smith. I watched as they dominated the Scottish domestic scene, amassing a record-equalling 9 titles in a row. They also became the first Scottish side to participate in the current format of the Champions League, appearing in the inaugural competition, in a group alongside European heavyweights Olympique Marseille.
But it was at home where Rangers proved an exciting and dynamic team. Glasgow rivals Celtic broke their domination at the last moment, winning the SPL title in 1998 to stop Rangers becoming the first club to win 10 consecutive titles. The SPL trophy then bounced back and forth over the Clyde for the next 10 years, providing title races that were nothing but thrilling for both the blue and green sides of Glasgow.
That was until 2012. Following the sale of the club by David Murray under the cloud of an investigation by HMRC amid the possibility of unpaid taxes, gross financial mismanagement by subsequent owners Craig Whyte and Charles Green led to the club entering adminstration. They were essentially dissolved and had to come back as a new club in the fourth tier of Scottish football. From then on, competition in Scottish football essentially died for rivals Celtic. They have won every league title since uncontested under the tutelage of Neil Lennon and Ronny Deila, but as many Celtic fans would surely agree, it hasn’t felt the same. Where’s the pleasure in winning when there’s really no one to beat?
Though many Celtic fans wouldn’t admit, I’m sure they miss Rangers almost as much as Rangers miss being where they used to be. I’m not here to comment on whether or not they deserved the punishment served out to them – that’s for others to discuss. But what I can say is that the current state of the Scottish game does make me hark back to better days. Almost as much as I miss the days of Larsson, Cadete, Thom, Mjallby and McStay, there is a pang of some kind of nostalgia to see them go up against the likes of Laudrup, Gascoigne, Goram and Durie in the biggest derby in British football. Ok, maybe not Durie. But you get the idea. There was nothing like the build up to an Old Firm match and it was something Glasgow once again had a taste for last season, when the two met in one of Scotland’s domestic cup competitions last season. Sadly, this only served as a reminder of how far things have gone since the former glory days of the 90s and 00s, with Celtic running out convincing winners in the end.
To some, it will seem like madness to say it but here goes – I miss Rangers. I miss knowing that dropping points at any point in the title race is not an option, because your rivals are there waiting to pounce. I miss the adrenalin-fuelled meetings that were the Old Firm games, knowing that you were in for a tough but exciting match that could contribute to where the title ended up. But most of all, I miss being half of something the whole world watched. Part of a rivalry that is as well recognised the world over as El Clasico, Le Classique, Boca v River Plate or any other derby you choose to mention. It may be some time before it’s back with any kind of meaning but I, for one, can’t wait.