Soul Sucking Saturday

As someone who has a young daughter, I recently watched Tangled for the first time. In that Disney movie, we have an old woman who seems to survive by sucking on the soul of first a magical flower and later the daughter of King and Queen of the land. She’s not the first character like this I’ve come across, I seem to remember similar storylines in everything from Stardust to American Gods – soul sucking seems to be quite a common trope.

We have one of these in Scottish Football too, and they currently go by the name of Airdrieonians.

In the context of Celtic, the name conjures up thoughts Pierre Van Hooijdonk ending a six year wait for a trophy, or for older readers it might be the retirement of the legendary Billy McNeill. Both games were victorious Scottish Cup final wins over a team called Airdrieonians.

Not this one though.

The team we faced in those two finals twenty years apart were liquidated in 2002, three years after we played them for the last time in another Scottish Cup match in January 1999. Their liquidation was set in motion two years earlier when the then Rangers chairman David Murray pushed for them to pay up some debt elsewhere in his business empire. That sent them into administration, from which they were never able to recover. Despite finishing runners up in the second tier, Airdrieonians were no more.

But they weren’t the only club in trouble that season. Local businessman Jim Ballantyne, having failed to create a new Airdrie United club as the SFL went with introducing Gretna into the league instead, pounced on a badly struggling Clydebank and bought them over. He then moved them to Airdrie, rebranded them as Airdrie United and continued on in Scotland’s third tier.

Clydebank were just the first club whose soul Airdrie United were able to use to their own benefit. In 2008, Airdrie United lost the promotion playoffs to Clyde and were supposed to stay in the third tier. However, the demise of Gretna meant a space opened up in the second tier, which was granted to the losing finalists. Having gone up by good fortune in 2008, this continued the following season when they again lost the playoff final to Ayr United. But this time it was administration for Livingston that sent them tumbling down to the bottom tier and offered Airdrie United a reprieve.

As if twice wasn’t enough, they again lost the playoff final in 2012, however with the death of Rangers meaning Dundee took their place in the top tier, there was once again an extra space in the second tier which went to Airdrie United! They didn’t last long though, and went straight back down again in 2013.

But by this point in time, the attitude in Scotland had changed. For a decade, Airdrie United has been accepted as a new Airdrie team and nothing to do with the old one. They didn’t use the same name, and although the fans accepted that they were some kind of continuation of the old club’s traditions, everyone could very easily understand that they were a new club.

But then we had to start convincing people that actually clubs and companies are different things and not linked so that clubs can survive liquidation when companies don’t and honestly son it’s the same goldfish that was there before you went to school and never mind the orange thing I’ve tried to flush down the toilet.

So in 2013, Airdrie United were suddenly allowed to be renamed to Airdrieonians, using the same badge that had been in use until 2002. And with that, confusion reigns today to the point that many people think we haven’t played this Airdrie since that Scottish Cup match in 1999 whereas in actual fact we haven’t played this team in a competitive match since a 5-0 Scottish Cup win at Firhill in 1997 when they were then known as Clydebank.

Technically a Celtic XI has faced Airdrie United a couple of times since then, most recently at Firhill in the summer of 2012 in the Arr Craib Cup, but given that wasn’t the first team it’s difficult to count these – even if I was there to witness it!

I still want to know why there’s a club in the Lowland League that go by Gretna 2008. Surely they’re just Gretna by this same logic? Or are they at least the one team in Scotland that can admit the truth about being a new club based on the old one instead of pretending they’re the same club?

We go into this match with a few monkeys on our back. First, we didn’t exactly cover ourselves in glory before the break. An awful performance at Ibrox where the scoreline flattered us, the media then bombarding us with stories about the abuse that referee John Beaton has taken due to his utterly inept performance that day, all in a month where we seem to be building either for the short term with loan signings until the summer or bringing in projects…

I’m just glad to be getting back to the football on the field to be honest.

There is one other monkey on our back though. The one of history being against us. The one that says no Celtic team has ever won the Scottish Cup three years in a row. I’ve gone over this previously, including my belief that we cursed ourselves in 1909 when we tried to chase money from replays and ended up with a riot that saw the cup withheld in a year when we were trying to win it for a third successive time. Since then the closest we’ve come to it was losing the penalty shootout to Aberdeen in 1990.

Indeed, the last time we had two successive Scottish Cups, our attempt to win it for a third time was cut dramatically short after lower league Clyde beat Gordon Strachan’s side on the day Roy Keane made his debut. Du Wei want to talk any more about that game? Not really.

We’ll have to do better than that this time, and with the game taking place at Celtic Park and live on Premier Sports then we’ll be expected to get off to a good start. This Airdrie are mid-table in Scotland’s third tier and still in the hunt for the playoffs – which they historically go on to lose and then benefit from anyway of course.

We, on the other hand, are League Cup holders and top flight leaders. Expectation is always high, especially at home, and so we’ll be on a hiding to nothing unless we issue a good hammering. Even a narrow win that sees us into the next round will be seen as a shock and some kind of moral victory for our opponents. That’s just the way it is with cup football, and no one really remembers the early rounds unless something bad happens anyway.

So lets ensure we do the job professionally. This month has already had enough soul sucking as far as I’m concerned, we don’t want any more of that from the Succubus of Scottish Football.

Krys (Twitter @krys1888)

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