I missed “the banter years”.
Not that they’re gone, of course not. Our noisy neighbours are still keen to throw up a good laugh every so often. Even today their ultras are doing some kind of dress up in black like it’s a funeral death march to their displaced seating area because their usual seats will be occupied by Celtic fans.
Imagine moving your ultras. What a riddy.
The bit I miss though is not having to have any dealings with them whatsoever. 2012-13 was one of my favourite seasons as a Celtic fan and not once did it involve anything to do with a team by the name of Rangers. We didn’t play one game against them, didn’t have to listen to their supporters, and got on with winning a league and cup double whilst playing in the Champions League and of course beating Barcelona.
By the time we faced the new Rangers for the first time, I’d more or less given up going to games due to other circumstances in life. It happens, it had nothing to do with them. In fact I was very slightly disappointed that their three year “journey” took four years because if they’d turned up on time then I’d have left just as they did.
That very first meeting came in the League Cup semi final in 2014/15 and saw us comfortably win 2-0. The next meeting the following season in the Scottish Cup finished 2-2 after extra time with them progressing to the final following a penalty shootout…
Only to be forever known as the team against whom Hibernian finally ended their long Scottish Cup wait.
Then Brendan Rodgers came. A couple of 5-1 thumpings, a 2-1 Hogmanay win, a late 1-0 League Cup semi final win and a more comfortable 2-0 Scottish Cup semi final win almost saw us complete a six game whitewash over them.
Brother Madden had other ideas though and denied us a blatant late penalty to allow them to pick up a 1-1 draw at Celtic Park. One of only four domestic games Celtic failed to win on their way to an invincible treble.
This season has seen us face them twice already, with a 2-0 win at Ibrox being followed most recently with a 0-0 home draw.
The interesting aspect of all of this is that the same man was in charge at Ibrox for both draws against Brendan Rodgers’ side. The same man they will be in charge today, and indeed for next month’s Scottish Cup semi final.
Mark Warburton may have got a draw first, and indeed has the shootout scalp to his name, but his next outing was the first 5-1 thumping under Rodgers. Graeme Murty has yet to taste derby defeat, never mind been on the end of a hiding.
If you believe the pundits in Scotland, Murty has steadied the ship at Ibrox and they are the form team going into this game. Which is quite easy to claim if you mainly play bottom six teams and ignore the defeat at home to Hibernian.
For the second time this season.
Yes, they’ve beaten Aberdeen and Hearts too, but then so have we. We had to go to Pittodrie to beat Aberdeen, and that was just after returning from St Petersburg!
They haven’t been in Europe since early July when they lost to the fourth best team in Luxembourg.
Oh, and of course, we’ve also beaten Hibernian.
Nevertheless, I’m expecting a tough game. When you’re in the habit of scoring goals as today’s opponents are, it’s a good confidence boost no matter who you play.
Although it’s worth noting Kenny Miller’s consolation in the second 5-1 game last season is the last time they’ve scored against us – one of only three goals they’ve managed in eight games since Rodgers took charge of Celtic.
Perhaps more importantly though, we still don’t quite look ourselves. Last week it took until the second half to really trouble Morton and we’ll need to play better than that against a team who really are our nearest rivals right now.
And they know that not only can they close the gap on us to just three points if they win, but they’ll move even further away from Aberdeen as they could only draw at Partick Thistle yesterday. So there’s real incentive for them here.
But then again, there is for us too. If we can make that gap nine points with a win at Ibrox, as well as still having a game in hand, we know we have all but secured our seventh league title. It won’t be official, but with our rivals having just eight games to go after this they’ll know it’s unlikely they’ll catch us.
Then focus would turn to stopping us in the Scottish Cup. But more on that next month.
For now, all focus is on Ibrox. We need to be up for this game, and even though it’s a new club there’s enough pretence around that it should be easy to motivate for this one. If our best players all play to the best of their ability, I’m confident Celtic will win this game.
We’ve done in on occasion already this season and shown up when necessary, so hopefully this is another of those times.
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)