The Value Of The 'Old Firm' Derby
By The Way - Weekly Columns
By Remy McSwain Saturday saw the last “Old Firm” game of 2017. By typing the dreaded phrase “Old Firm”, there are a few readers thinking WTF is he going with this? It is a term studiously avoided by the online Celtic supporting community and by the club itself which has long referred to the game as “the Glasgow derby”. To most Celtic fans the term was no longer applicable from 2012 after the death of one of the two members and with the reincarnated “Rangers” starting in the fourth division it didn’t trouble most as there were no league games for the foreseeable future. Their promotion to the big league in 2016 and the ludicrous “Going for 55” season ticket campaign, saw the media crank it up. Brendan Rodgers was in for a rough ride in his first season and Celtic would be found out by Warburton’s galacticos. With the first game of the new league season being at Ibrox, the newbies had a great chance to put some pressure on Celtic before their visit to Tynecastle. Of course, they blew it in laughable style and, a few weeks later, were travelling to Celtic Park having to win to hang on to our coattails. This was the game both the media and The Rangers were waiting for – “the return of the Old Firm”. A 5-1 tanking saw a few eating humble pie (cf Barton, Joseph). In the early 1990s a rudderless Celtic overseen by a board of directors that had no clue what it was doing and no vision for the club other than the MacGuffin that was Cambuslang, were desperate to be seen as part of the Old Firm. Celtic needed Rangers to retain a big club relevance. We needed them for joint sponsorship or strip deals. Rangers, under the stewardship of David Murray, knew that Celtic were a shambles and tried to wreck the cosy relationship. Murray arranged separate agreements with Adidas and McEwan’s Lager and Celtic were left scratching around to negotiate their own, much smaller, deals. Fast forward twenty plus years and it’s now the Rangers who need the “Old Firm”. Celtic have arranged their own strip and sponsorship deals which financially dwarf the Ibrox ones. One look at the electronic advertising hoardings during a game at Ibrox also demonstrates the vast gulf in companies who are spending money in advertising at the venues. They need the “Old Firm” to try to pretend they are the same big club they have always been, nothing has changed and that they are part of the big two which dominate Scottish football. A compliant media helps to promote this. However, the facts show that this patently isn’t the case. Since the reformation, football club not religion, The Rangers have won precisely no major trophies. Inverness, St Mirren, Kilmarnock, St Johnstone and Hibs have all won one. In the Premier League, they finished a distant third behind a rampant Celtic and a distance behind Aberdeen even though they had a far higher budget. They remain third in the league this season after 22 games despite spending more, allegedly, than any other club in Scotland on transfer fees. They are a mess from top to bottom and botched their attempt to poach McInnes from Aberdeen. Rightfully, most Celtic fans treat them with disdain and know that our closest rivals, albeit distant ones, are Aberdeen. For Celtic fans the “Old Firm”, like Rangers, is dead and we now look forward to dishing out regular thrashings to the Ibrox XI. Most claim to see Sevco as an irrelevance. Yet on Saturday we saw a game sold out weeks ago (the previous Glasgow derby against Thistle attracted about 35k), all season ticket holder seats filled, fans pay £49 for the privilege of seeing a tribute act, people flying in from all over the globe for the game and a pre-match display generally not seen at run of the mill league games. They may no longer be our closest rivals or the club they claim to be, but they are still box office and the game is needed in our drab one-sided league. Whether it will ever be a truly competitive fixture remains to be seen. No-one argues or whinges like hell when we drop points to Kilmarnock or Hibs yet the fall-out from Saturday is unbelievable. Celtic may not need the “Old Firm” or “Rangers” but for a huge amount of our fanbase it appears we need to tank them every time we play them. A large dose of reality is needed. If we don’t play to form, any organised team can get a result. Until the next time in March when we bring on the The Rangers. Happy New Year.
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