It’s been so long since I last did one of these that I no-longer think I can keep apologising at the start of every one. Like goals from John Arne Riise, they’re rare – but usually they’re worth it.
A week or so back, popular Scottish Fanzine ‘Scotzine’ put out a call for Old Firm fans to be in touch – and to do a Q&A session on their experiences. It seemed to have been a decent enough response, and seeing I keep being harassed about who I support on twitter I thought I’d upload it.
In future, I’ve a few posts lined up, examples; ‘zonal vs man-marking’, ‘fixture lists – how the FA should do it and why’, and I’ll probably give in to the hipster urge of writing about the German League, and why they’re so much better than us.
So, my Q&A with Scotzine:Follow @scotzine
The Old Firm, from a Glasgow Rangers fan.
How long have you supported your club?
Since I was about 9/10 years old, but it wasn’t until the 01/02 season was the first I was old enough to really get into it.
Why do you support your club and what makes supporting them so special?
My parents ‘sides’ of the family were divided. Dad, Celtic, Mum’s side tended to be more on the blue side of the fence; but the area of Glasgow I was brought up in was slightly more in-favour of The Gers. I think Rangers had just come of the back of a dominant spell. Rangers are special, in my opinion, because the club is the most successful (decorated) club in world football. The fans are loyal (38,000 STs in League 3 proves that) – we have history of accolades and are known worldwide for it.
When was your first Old Firm derby match?
A 0-1 loss at Ibrox in February 2006, Maciej Zurawski scored early but it was a rather tame affair. Roy Keane’s first old firm game – he was booked for the most cynical foul on a breakaway Dado Prso, took me years to realise how smart that foul was – but it stopped a 4 vs 2 break.
How would you describe the emotion and feeling at experiencing the atmosphere and the derby game as a whole?
Tense, if I’m honest it’s not all that enjoyable, it means almost too much. Slightly less nervous watching them on TV (I live in England now). The only time I’ve really been able to enjoy a goal live was THAT Maurice Edu one in the 92nd minute, because I knew it was so late.
What is/are your favourite Old Firm derby game?
4-2 from a few seasons back stands out, when Naismith got a double and even Lafferty managed a goal. But, I’d probably say the 2002/2003 Cup Final, Lovenkrands scoring a brace, the Barry Ferguson Free-Kick and Hartson missing a penalty I think. That was a colossal battle all throughout the match, McLeish really announced himself then. Terrific game.
Worst moment in the Old Firm derby game?
The game I felt most bitter about was, and I can only half-remember the score, was Diouf at Celtic Park. Rangers weren’t getting the rub of the green and had Whitaker sent off pretty early for a nothing tackle of the half-way line. Bougherra also received his marching orders and Diouf was red carded at the end. Lennon confronted Diouf (neither of which are angels) and left his technical area to do so – then he and McCoist had a tear-up. It got out of hand, but I always feel the referees got that one wrong and lost control.
Has Scottish football and your club’s games lost any of its spice and appeal with no derby game?
Yes. But it’s been losing appeal with everyone for years for a few reasons. Edinburgh derbies don’t really excite me, Dundee Derby is usually a walk-over. The SFA used the ‘flashpoints’ of Old Firm games to market them to Sky, people watched for the fighting and horror tackles, but they gave all the money to the Old Firm teams, so they got stronger and pushed further ahead. They did this for 15 years and now are confused why no-one else can compete and the League Title is decided in September.
What is your opinion of media coverage of your club and of the Old Firm in general?
Sensationalist. Both sets of fans are hell-bent that the media hates them more but it’s never been the case. The media has always sided with the most successful side, and then focused negative attention on the side doing not so well. The papers will create feuds on the pitch, and then smear the players for rising to it. They’ve done it with different players over the years, and will always do it.
What is your take on the Offensive Behaviour Bill in Football?
It’s a start, the SFA needed to do something and at least they’re now acting. With these things, they take a few years to iron out creased, and I fully expected an amended bill to come out soon – probably when Rangers return.
Is there any other game that can better the Old Firm derby?
I don’t think so, El Theatrico in Spain has good technical play but the diving is off-putting. Liverpool v Man Utd has similar levels of passion, but I think in recent years the games have been a bit stale and lackluster. You never have a boring Old Firm match. North London Derbies are exciting, but haven’t got years of such competition – Tottenham have only been in Arsenal’s sights for 5 years. Galatasary vs Fenerbache? Perhaps that’s of the same nature. For me, Old Firm games are special, the best, a city, a nation at times, families, can be divided for a day all pending the result of a football match. It’s astounding how much it effects Glasgow, and it goes all the way down through the youth systems.
If you could name an Old Firm XI who would it be – both Celtic and Rangers player in it….
Whilst I ‘know’ the legends of yester-year, not seeing them play live I’m going to avoid the old generations – and name my XI from the last 10 years-ish. This is on ability, performance in OF games, and presence under pressure.
Hutton – Weir – Mjallby – McNamara,
R. de Boer, Ferguson, Lennon, Thompson,
Special mentions for: Nacho Novo, Kenny Miller, Chris Sutton, John Hartson, Allan McGregor, Scott Brown, Rab Douglas, Steven Naismith, Stan Petrov and Lubo Moravčík.
Does Scottish football need the Old Firm?
Yes, it needs the two biggest clubs, but it also needs a fundamental shake-up and someone else to win the league. Hibs look the most stable, but they’re miles off. I’d love to see an Arab come in and mix-things-up. Scottish football needs restructuring and a more competitive league.
Would you like to see the Old Firm playing in a European league or in the EPL?
The idea of the Dutch/Belgian/Scottish league interested me, all 3 nations have big clubs who have suffered from non-competitive leagues. I think the idea had some substance.
EPL? Do-able, but English sides have no reason to want them in – and with Scotland’s vote on independence up-coming I don’t expect the issue to be resurfaced any time soon. Personally I think RFC/CFC would more than compete with the top clubs, but would take a period of stabilisation. The only way they could do it is to join the Conference North/South, and all clubs entered there – then make 3 Conference divisions: I.e. North, South, Midlands. Then break the rest of Scotland into regional leagues like in England. It could work with structure. Could see Hearts/Hibs/Aberdeen in bottom Championship/top L1. People site ‘travel’ as a problem, but Germany Bremen>Munich isn’t a bus ride and it works fine. In all honesty though, Perhaps, for now, only the Old Firm would gain anything, I don’t think the other clubs could really compete like they are in Scotland. We need to sort out our game, make it stronger and our clubs stronger before we can think of integration.
A good way to test the ground would be a ‘British League Cup’ – both nations competitions are going stale, could make it interesting.
Anything else you would like to add about the derby game?
Both fans don’t realise how much they miss each other, as someone who’s left Scotland and now blogs about football from neutral standpoint, it’s funny how bitter supporters can be, but really – they long for those games back. I noticed it last week in-fact, then I seen a Hibernian fan donate £50 to the Hearts fundraising. He said: “We hate them, but we’d miss them if they’re gone.” – Celtic may dislike Rangers, but they’re suffering with the absence, players wanting to leave and the attendance levels dropping. SFA is the first port of restructuring, for me – they’ve let situations at Hearts, Pars, Rangers, Dundee happen and more will follow. Fan-owned clubs, 50+1 is the future of football. Scotland should lead the way.
Tweet me what you think, you know where I am on twitter.
Over and out.