The Old Firm Draw That Has Ruined Christmas!


So after a two and a half years without one, the Old Firm fixture will be back with a bang in the New Year.

The draw for the League Cup final that paired the two Glasgow clubs was made last Saturday, yet the frenzy surrounding the fixture has yet to die down. The fact is, the tension and pressure will only build as the game gets closer and closer.

No matter what they say both sets of supporters are obsessed with the opposition.

Celtic’s faithful will shout-out words like ‘Zombies’ and ‘Sevco’. They will also state that Rangers died a few years back and that this is no longer the Old Firm derby. Funny that they continue to look out for the results from the team playing in Blue from Govan, so that they can pounce on any negative result. Would you really do that, if you believed that your team had never played against that other lower league side? Also lets face it no matter what you think, the fans at Ibrox are the same ones you’ve hated all your footballing lives.

Rangers fans have always pointed the finger at Celtic’s support and said ‘they are the obsessed ones!’. Over the past few seasons that line has simply disappeared. The Gers faithful are always quick to blame their rivals for their recent placement into Scotland’s bottom tier. The blue half of Glasgow see this cup fixture as a game to gain revenge against a side and fanbase that have revelled in their misfortune.

The media have done little to calm down the expectations in Scotland. They’ve had plenty of Old Firm stories in the papers and every Scottish football TV interview seems to swerve towards talking about a cup fixture that’s still a full three months away. The Scottish press live off this rivalry, they are just as obsessed as the fans and the clubs themselves. Listen by doing this blog piece I too have been caught up in it all and must be a bit obsessed.

Both teams have had personnel coming out and talking about their excitement. Again proving to most that this isn’t a new fixture and is a game that gets the players going.

Just look at Celtic midfielder Stefan Johansen’s comments…

“We are just happy. We were hoping to get Rangers. It is a great game for us and the fans.”

“It is a semi-final and a great game. It would be good to beat Rangers and go through to the final. It is obviously a big game. When I played in Norway, they played it on the Norwegian TV channels.”

“When you watched them, you had a feeling about how big they are, but I think you need to take part in the game before you really know how big they are, so I am looking forward to it.”

This is the biggest game in British football. This derby is up there with any game in the world when it comes to tension, anticipation, rivalry and drama. But we all need to calm down.

They say in Spain that they spend a week or two building up the El Clasico in the papers and in the terraces. This match between Rangers and Celtic has been full-on from the moment the draw was made and its doesn’t look to be waning anytime soon. It will just grow and grow as it gets closer. For many fans; league games, Christmas and Hogmanay will now be viewed as distractions. We are talking about people that go to Old Firm matches not to watch the football but to look at the opposing supports to shout obscenities and make rude gestures at each other.

I’ve seen Glasgow derby matches in the past that boiled over in 1999 and 2011. You get the feeling that this occasion could go the same way, actually there is a distinct possibility it could be even worse.

At Hampden, you will have an equal support for both sides and they will have had almost three years without seeing each other.

Rangers boss Ally McCoist has been quick to realise the potential furore that could surround this game and made this statement…

“From a sanity point of view we are talking about a game that is still three months away. It’s the first Old Firm game in almost three years and I hope all the fans can come along and enjoy. But let’s remember we have a duty and a responsibility here.”

The vast majority of Old Firm fans don’t physically hate each other all the time, that’s just a myth. They work alongside each other all the time, they will have friends that support the rivals. But as we approach an Old Firm game, Glasgow as a city does seem to get darker. The match is the main topic of conversation and the tension builds to almost fever like temperatures.

Scotland could really have done with these two sides being paired off in the Scottish Cup fourth round draw rather than in the League Cup semi final. As there would have been less of a wait and the tension wouldn’t be as great. Plus we could have then had a quieter Christmas and New Year.

As for the game itself, well Scottish Premiership champions Celtic have to be overwhelming favourites for this one. They have the stronger squad with John Guidetti, Virgil van Dijk, Kris Commons and Craig Gordon being the standout stars. But in a one off situation Rangers will always have a chance. Even if Celtic can beat Rangers eight or nine times out of ten, Rangers can believe that this can be the one that they sneak if they get all the luck. The pressure will be on Celtic and it will be up to them to stand up to that pressure and perform on the day.

One thing that will probably make both sets of fans happy is that the League Cup isn’t sponsored. They’ll enjoy the fact that the Scottish footballing authorities won’t be making an extra buck off of this encounter.

I’ll end this by echoing Ally McCoist’s sentiments and hope that the fans can go and enjoy the occasion. But I fear it will end up being a hatred filled stadium with the press baiting each set of supporters in the weeks leading up to the tie.

I just wonder if Scottish airports will see a hike in numbers leaving the country that weekend as non Old Firm fans depart the scene for a bit of a break.

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