Rangers 0—2 Celtic.

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There’s an afterglow to this sweet Old Firm derby. Neil Lennon had a few hard choices to make. In goal he could have played Fraser Foster, Craig Gordon or my mate’s mum. He said she could have played in goals and he was right enough. Lennon went with Fraser Foster. Celtic’s dodgy defence was on display. Rangers were at home. The bookies made them favourites. Celtic were 2/1. All the Daily Record pundits gave Rangers the edge by a goal or more.

At the end of the game, topped by a Johnny Hayes’s second goal, in the dying minutes, which complemented Edouard’s sublime first goal, Lennon went to shake hands with Stephen Gerrard and his assistant manager Gary McAllister. He holds his hand out and they looked past his shoulder and through a smirking Lennon, quick to move on. Lennon looks at the camera and lets out a roar, his ersatz composure ripped to shreds. He’s as delighted as us. He’s a manager but a fan.

There wasn’t much football. What football was played was played by the men in green and white. Every Celtic player won their 50-50 battle. We didn’t play the ball from the back and invite the opposition onto us. We were in their faces and it was there for all to see, they aren’t very good. They are a media construct based on a few half-decent results. We’ve got better players. Sometimes it’s that simple and it shows. There was only one twenty-million-pound striker on display and he scored again, when it matters.

In the European ties I expect Rennes to beat us in France and perhaps we’ll get a draw at Parkhead. They are a good team. The Italians could and should beat us home and away. Cluj, well, our nemeses aren’t great. I think they’ll finish bottom of the group. We’ll beat them at home and away. For now we are happy. It doesn’t last.

Next up, Hamilton away. Away win. Rangers have signed the new messiah. Where have I heard that one before? They’re spending even more money they’ve not got again. For every pound I’ll spend a tenner Murray. Bury it.  Where did I here that before? Hail Hail.

Celtic 0—0 Rangers

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The last Old Firm game of the year and Rangers take a point and could have taken more, but from some crucial saves from Craig Gordon. Ranger’s keeper Wes Foderingham also blocked well, early on, from Moussa Dembele. His save from James Forest was superb. And Scott Sinclair hit him with the ball twice and contrived to miss, just before half time from six yards. A first half that Celtic dominated, after a shaky start, in which Rangers had the upper hand. Much of that had to do with Michael Lustig. His first four passes went to Ranger’s players and his one-two with Scott Brown played Morelos in on goal.

The Ranger’s striker had a number of chances, particularly in the second half. A header in particular was a poor miss. Celtic bringing on Nicham brought some stability to the team and as he was able to pass the ball and retain possession. All over the park Celtic players failed this basic test. Keep the ball, pass the ball. In the final third they were shoddy. Craig Gordon’s save from Tavernier’s acrobatic effort was world class and the save of the match. Dembele was slow to leave the field when subbed after sixty minutes, but it was another game in which he hasn’t scored. Not good enough. Griffith’s arrival didn’t have the same impact of  Nicham’s for Sinclair. The Celtic onslaught in the last ten minutes didn’t arrive. Some half chances, but with the caveat that Rangers could at any minute have went up the other end and scored – as they nearly did so many times.

I need to grit my teeth and say a draw was a fair result. Celtic aren’t as good as they were last year when Rangers came here and drew 1-1. Not a backward step for the Bhoys, but certainly a sideways step. We need to come back fitter and stronger after the break and if it’s Dembelie-less so be it. Rangers best chances today came from simple passes, mainly from defenders going astray, but Stuart Armstrong is perhaps most culpable of late in midfield.

Celtic’s best player, Craig Gordon. Pass marks to Brown for being Brownie and bossing the first half. Nicham for his cameo as substitute. James Forrest, good start, but faded. That apart substandard Celtic. But still on track.

Celtic 5—Rangers 1.

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gloat

ɡləʊt/

verb

gerund or present participle: gloating

  1. dwell on one’s own success or another’s misfortune with smugness or malignant pleasure.

“his enemies gloated over the Huns death”

synonyms: delight in, relish, take great pleasure in, enjoy greatly, revel in, rejoice in, glory in, exult in, triumph over, crow over;

 

It was a long time coming, a few phoney wars and some people might even have watched Scotland playing Malta, but then the media campaign ramped up, with special Old Firm pull-outs and countdowns to the big game. A bombardment of World War 1 proportions to soften us up. Joey Barton’s Twitters were raided for back-page news, and his media pal Robbie Savage reminded us he’d be the best player in Scottish football be some distance. I must admit I was a bit scared, he might be something special, and he did nearly score in this game with a back pass to his own goalkeeper, Wes Fotheringham that had the Ranger’s keeper scrambling to save it. Yes, it was confirmed, after Tom Rogic spun away and left him and his midfield partner Niko Kranjcar on their arses so often, the Ger’s duo were indeed something worth watching.  They were part of that great Ranger’s tradition of giving people money for nothing. I’m not even going to mention Philippe Senderos, because that would be too cruel. Like all great players he did his talking on the pitch, but left early having been given the run-around all afternoon to get his head together and catch the mobility bus home.

Barcelona rested seven of their first-team regulars against a newly promoted La Liga team, Celtic didn’t, but they did bring on Stuart Armstrong, who can’t be considered a first pick, but did score the fifth goal. The notable omission was Leigh Griffiths, the one player from the Ronnie Delia era that could hold his head up and who carried us to the league title last year and who has started in such fine form this year. I must admit his stand in Moussa Dembele did alright, setting up a goal for Scott Sinclair (who’s actually English) and scoring a hat trick in an Old Firm game isn’t easy. The last Celt to do so wasn’t Larsson, as you’d expect, but two generations before that with Stevie Chalmers when anyone that wore shin guards was considered a bit of a poof and even after that when Danny McGrain didn’t even have a beard and Dixie Deans was regularly knocking in six against a good Hib’s team, he couldn’t score a measly three again the Ibrox money men. Dembele kept his trap shut when not in the first eleven and unlike some Ranger’s regulars, waited for his moment. Here he pounced. Header, left foot, right foot. Early promise is beginning to pay off. He’s in line for a start against Barcelona. And even this early I’d say it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest after two years at Parkhead, you’re looking at Celitc’s first £20 million -plus- transfer. And between him and Leigh Griffiths you’re looking at finishing first and second in the goal-scoring charts. The league is won, even this early, I can say that. We’ve played the best of the rest and scored five against them.

But there’s something in the Old Firm game that brings out the kid in us all. I was thinking about Fat Robbie’s son, who is eight and was at his first Old Firm fixture. That’s probably the first time he’s seen adults who scarcely scratch a smile all week, laughing and greeting, kissing each other and dancing in their seats. Aye, it’s a belter, not to be forgotten, unless you’re a Hun.

Ranger’s supporters will be waiting and hoping that Barcelona take five off our Bhoys because the Catalans are five times better than us. That’s a possibility. A real possibility, we know that because we’ve been there before. Hearts do rule old heads, but there’ll be no shame in it. The phony war against Rangers is over. Talk about Magic Hats and Joey Barton (insert your own version of events here). Celtic have proved themselves. And they need to prove themselves again in the big league, in the Champions League, where the real money is, and there they’ll be found wanting, but they’re the best in Scotland, by a fair distance and deserve to be there.  I think we can safely say that Ibrox will be a  Priest-free zone for quite a while and when Zadok and the Champions League music starts they can turn it over and watch oops Joey in the Cartoon Network.

Mea Culpa – my history of pitch invasions.

Scottish Cup Final 1980. I was part of the 70 000 crowd. Pitch invasion. Brought up in a deprived home where you always wanted the Indians to beat the cowboys, and Celtic to beat Rangers, no matter the odds and how many referees and masonic linesman they had in their pockets, I wanted one of those horses the police had.  Cup-final win by a George McCluskey goal. My good mate Dav Prentice (R.I.P) was just the kind of arsehole that would say things like ‘you might have won the cup, but we won the fight’. He always did tell a lot of porkies.

Fast Forward, 1986, St Mirren 0 – Celtic 5 and a little help from God’s own Albert Kidd and I was involved in another pitch invasion. Yes, it was a glorious day at Love Street and I got to ruffle Mo Johnson’s ginger mop. If I’d have known how he was going to turn Judas, I’d have ripped it out at the roots. But this was not about aggro, or the background noise of the Huns ‘We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood, Surrender ‘till you die.’ Or the triumphalism of ‘Hallo, Hallo, We are the Billy Boys.’ This was unmitigated joy. The unbelievable believable had happened. Hibs victory was a bit like that yesterday.

The Hibees fans invasion of the park was an outpouring of joy. Pure and simple. Their season has been awful. Defeat after defeat snatched from victory. I put a bet on 35/1, Rangers to win first half, Hibs to win the game. Almost right. Almost winning is not winning. You don’t get any money back. Tough luck.

But let’s play the blame game. First up, Rangers. 2-1 up. Cruising. They blew it. Two corners. Two Hib’s goals. Terrible defending. If they’d have won there wouldn’t have been any crowd trouble, because victory was expected. Hibs fans would have drifted away. Rangers would have done their lap of honour. So the Ranger’s team blew it.

Let’s put this into context. There would have been no pitch invasion after the recent Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final, because the police were ready for it. Here they were not. The stewards didn’t do their jobs. And if the Celtic fans had invaded Hampden Park on that day it would  not have been the Rangers players they’d have (allegedly) attacked, but Celtic players for being so feeble, clueless and pitiable in defeat to our greatest rivals. Rangers had their day then. Hibs had their day yesterday. Policing was at fault. But let’s not kid on it was anything like the riot in 1980.

And perhaps some Ranger’s fans will forget that before liquidation their supporters tried to liquidate Manchester. Do not come back was the general media consensus. Well, I voted for it anyway, and Rangers since then have done their best to make sure it never happens again by being so shite.

Sure Hibs had a few supporters that wanted to fight and scrap but the vast majority on the pitch were experiencing what I had at Love Street. Rangers don’t have any hooligan supporters. Aye right. Glasgow under -17,Youth Cup Final, at Partick Thistle’s Firhill ground, Celtic win, Celtic supporters ambushed. Let’s not kid ourselves. The police failed to do what they needed to do then and at Hampden yesterday. Rangers failed their fans, in the same way as Celtic failed us when, as overwhelming favourites, we failed to deliver. Some people should start looking closer to home. And smell the glove (whatever that means).

Ropeburns

http://www.abctales.com/story/truth42/nice-see-you

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Near the end of Ropeburns, author and narrator, Ian Probert, bumps into Rob Douglas. If you’re like me you’ll not have a clue who Rob Douglas is. You’d know who Rab Douglas is – the ex-Celtic goalie that kept making a hash of it in the biggest matches of the season, most notably against Rangers. Football always finds a new way to smack you in the mouth, and I’m biased that way. Think Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch and you’ll get something of the taste of Ropeburns, but the latter outclasses the former in every way. It’s a straight knockout in the early rounds.

I’ve nothing against Nick Hornby, I’m sure he’s a great bloke. But Fever Pitch is kind of wanky. A middle-class kinda bloke, (think Hugh Grant or John Cussack and make them bald) a school teacher, follows his great love for Arsenal to its natural conclusion and they win the league and he gets the girl and some mega-book deal that puts him at the top of the tree and he gets to write screenplays because – just fuck off.

Rod Douglas the former British middle-weight title holder would soon give that short shrift. Like me, I’m sure he’d be more interested in the Rocky road to redemption of living in squats, flinging tellys through the window and pissing your life away before it’s begun. Then that magical moment when Ian does something right, he writes a feature for Boxing News and it gets printed. He gets £50, but more than that. A snowball’s chance for life change and it gains momentum.  Ian hooks up with budding world champion Michael Watson at his local gym and he gets lucky. They both get lucky. Watson knocks out Nigel Benn and he’s on the way up. Ian Probert is pulled with him into the orbit of boxing and boxers and the bullshit that makes the news. He should know, he worked as a sport’s writer and agent. He made the connection, then lost them. So when Ian Probert sits down in a café with a middle-aged Rod Douglas and tells him ‘that he is writing a boxing book that is not about boxing’ you’ve got to believe in him. Knock out.