Demise of Rangers will cast ghostly shadows
SIDELINE CUT:The demotion of Rangers will not alone affect the soccer landscape in Scotland, it could ultimately lead to deeper changes within the city of Glasgow, wites KEITH DUGGAN
SO NOW that Rangers are removed from the equation in Glasgow, is there any point to Scottish football? Great will be the glee among the green-and-white hoops faithful whose members can be seen in every town and city in Ireland this weekend. Rangers’ fall from grace and expulsion from the Premier League leaves the way clear for a period of Celtic dominance, much as the Ibrox club presided at the top of the league table for most of the 1990s.
Rangers’ flaming fall from the sky has been fascinating to watch – a century of prudent accountancy and tradition and a fearsome winning tradition has all come undone through the most mundane of misdemeanours – tax evasion and financial roguery.
For Celtic fans, the consequences must seem like the realisation of wild dreams. Rangers will be erased from the cityscape and football relevance, or at least as good as, consigned to the Hades of the Third Division and forced to start from scratch.
But if Rangers are indeed gone or even transformed into a diluted parody of what
they have represented for the last 100 years, won’t Celtic fans become a little lost too?
The presence of Rangers has made life very clear for them – the team in royal blue was everything there were not.
The 20th Century antagonism between the Irish Catholic emigrants who poured into the city and the established Protestant community has been carried through decades of Old Firm games, through the naked emotion of both sets of fans and the lusty singing of poisonous songs and through Paul Gascoigne playing the flute and Mo Johnston becoming the first player to wear the colours of both clubs and through the extraordinarily warped atmosphere in which Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, has lived in recent years.
The Old Firm rivalry is defined by hatred and bigotry and prejudices that belong to another age and because of that, it has earned its reputation of being one of the most famous and controversial sporting rivalries on the planet. If it is abruptly halted, what are Celtic fans to do? Seasons are defined by the Old Firms games in Celtic Park and at Ibrox.
Who will sing the Famine Song – “From Ireland they came/Brought us nothing but trouble and shame/ well now the Famine is over/why don’t they go home” – to the jaunty tune of The Beach Boys’ Sloop John B? Who will they row against in the streets and in the pubs and most of all, who will they measure themselves against? Beating Aberdeen is not quite the same thing.