It’s not the most uncommon occurrence for a city to produce two or more teams of stature, look at Liverpool city with Liverpool FC and Everton FC or Madrid with Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. London hosts several well known teams in Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, West Ham and there are even more from the big capital. Glasgow city however boasts the two all time greatest Scottish teams in Celtic and Rangers. Two teams that have forever been at odds on so many levels. Sharing a city always produces rivalries so it’s the neutral football fan who really reaps all the rewards come derby day when the drama is ever flowing.
We could go on all day about what makes the Old Firm rivalry special, it’s far beyond the mere support of two different teams. Religion, family, area code, personal creed and so much more is drummed up when these two Glasgow giants clash down on the turf side of Celtic Park or the Ibrox Stadium. Much like the legendary brothers Romulus and Remus, both teams are fighting over who takes the city. Both sides have had a stranglehold over Scottish football for the past century, however, since a first division was created in 1893, Celtic have been crowned champions 46 times and Rangers 54 times. Both sides have enjoyed their times atop of Scottish football with both taking 9 year league winning streaks at some point. Rangers have won the double more than Celtic but Celtic are the only Scottish side to take a quintuple when they won all three domestic trophies alongside the Glasgow Cup and European cup in 1967.
So when the news broke back in October 2012 that The Rangers Football Club PLC was to go into administration the footballing world was in shock. A team of such prestige in its own country had amounted substantial debts and was to be liquidated. This raised many questions for the average fan such as “are they gone for good?”, “can they continue on in the Scottish premier league?” and the one question that was repeated constantly “will there be no more Old Firm derbies?” One thing was for certain, that within all the confusion most Celtic fans were delighted. Banners and signs were held aloft at all their matches following the news, pictures of headstones and grim reapers showed how much they wished to stab the knife into their rival fans hearts. Charles Green took over Rangers and applied to play in the Scottish Premier League, the other teams even had to be put to vote on whether to allow it. In the end they decided to say no but luckily for Rangers they were successful in applying for the Scottish Football Association and could indeed play on. With a slight change in name to The Rangers Football Club Ltd they looked to rebuild. However having won the Scottish Premier League for the third time in a row just two season prior Rangers now found themselves at the bottom of the heap having to play in Third Division (fourth overall division).
As we speak, Rangers, some 3 years later, find themselves just one more promotion away from gaining access back into the Scottish Premier League. If they do indeed get promoted it will be a great story of triumph over adversity for the club. However in their absence we have seen a knock on effect in the league. It seems in their absence most of the smaller Scottish premier league teams have had space to develop and enjoy more success now that one of the big two where no longer there to trash them. Celtic have won the league every year since Rangers dismissal but other teams such as Aberdeen and St. Mirren have gone on to win the Scottish league cup. So you could say for the smaller teams that a league minus Rangers is a good thing but what about the only other big team? With the recent form of Celtic dropping again you have to ask is the lack of series competition hurting the green and white side of Glasgow?
Since Rangers left we have seen both a rise and a fall in Celtic FC. Outside of their own fans not much is expected of Celtic from those who follow the English sides or clubs from foreign countries. With all due respect to the other teams in their league, with Rangers gone there is nobody left for Celtic to worry about. So as expected Celtic have won the league every year since 2012 (having beaten Rangers to the honours in 11/12) but not many expected them to have the success they found back in 2012. Here they famously beat Barcelona with a mere 16% possession and got out of the group stages of the Champions league. It was almost as if the club were trying to prove that with Rangers gone they were stronger than ever and afraid of no one. Like Celtic FC or not this was a fairy tale of a story as then manager Neil Lennon, shocked the world by taking the team he once played for into the land of football heaven. They didn’t progress any further in the league but they made everyone take notice of them again. They went on to take a domestic double that year and players such as Gary Hooper who netted 31 goals in total, Victor Wanyama and Georgios Samaras all took several laps of honour by the time the season had ended.
It all seems so distant now however. Lennon has left for Bolton and been replaced by Ronny Deila. Hooper is at Sheffield Wednesday, Wanayama is at Southampton and Samaras who made a sack of his move to West Brom is plying his trade in Saudi Arabia. Celtic will win the league again this year, no doubt about it as there really are no other team capable of dethroning them. The real question is that if Rangers are back next season, which looks highly likely, then can Celtic keep on top of Scottish football or will Rangers take over again? After the amazing year of 2012 things have gone downhill rapidly for Celtic. They failed to qualify for Champions League last season and bowed out of the Europa League in the round of 32. On top of this they lost 3-2 in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup to Inverness CT, a team who had never even reached the Scottish Cup final until after that win. This year things have got even worse for Deila as more players have left, Celtic being a small club who can’t hold onto good players for long before big clubs swoop in for them. This year they again failed to qualify for the Champions league losing 4-3 on aggregate to Malmo. They also came last in their group in the Europa league after taking only 2 points in total. In recent news there has been a clear falling out with their best striker Anthony Stokes who took to Twitter to vent his frustrations on being left on the bench.
This all puts a lot of pressure on Celtic and indeed on their manager Ronny Deila. You have to wonder if after their great season of 2012 have Celtic fallen victim to their own success? They have no real competition in the league since Rangers left. They had it in 2011 so maybe that was a key part of their Champions League success, they were used to tough opposition. Now they have no other team to cut their teeth on and have losses to teams such as Malmo and Molde who are far from Barcelona or even Spartak Moscow who Celtic beat back in 2012. This leads most fans to the same conclusion, Celtic need Rangers and Scottish football needs the Old Firm derby. Whether we get to see things go back to usual depends on Rangers gaining promotion back into the Scottish Premier League this year. I’m sure there are many Celtic fans who sang and danced when Rangers were relegated finding themselves praying for their nemesis to return. Can Rangers do it? If so can Celtic cope? Well just have to wait for now and hope we get the Old Firm derby back on our television screens sooner rather than later.
by Niall Fogarty