Celtic do have home advantage and won the last Old Firm game of the season 2-1 in what was Neil Lennon’s temporary reign as manager but now he is the main man and he will want to put one over on the old fox on the other side of the divide, Walter Smith.
Celtic have come off the back of a hard fought 2-1 victory against Dundee United at Tannadice and go into the match in good form as do Rangers but they have had a difficult match in mid-week in the Champions League against Valencia ( see our guest Gers writer Ami Small’s ESPN report) but they will be in good spirits after many folk had written them off against the Spanish side but they did more than hold their own, in fact they could have bettered the 1-1 score line they did get at Ibrox.
Make no bones about it, these two are the big box office up here no question and even though Rangers have Champions League football to look forward to, I don’t see Celtic having that as a big advantage in the chase for the title, I am sure Neil Lennon and the Celtic supporters would rather they had matches and trips to foreign shores to enjoy on Tuesday or Wednesday nights also.
But when all is said and done, the focus now is all on Celtic Park on Sunday and just who will not only come out on top but which eleven each manager will pick?
We could debate that till the cows come home and still not get it right!
All I hope is that we see a cracking game, full of excitement, goals and entertainment and above all, no trouble-on or off the pitch as over the years too many families on both sides of the divide have become victims of sectarian attacks and we have far too often seen the ugly side of what many call “the biggest derby in the world”
This time there are no excuses!
Both sides go into the match, as I say in great form and hopefully a 5-5 draw should see everyone home happy!!!!
Even with Celtic having home advantage, I simply cannot split them and I think if you asked many of the fans at Celtic Park or Ibrox or Bairds Bar or the Louden…..well you may get a difference of opinion but if most fans are honest, maybe they would agree with me….or maybe not but that’s what makes it the game we all love.
I have many mixed memories of Old Firm matches over the years, some good, some bad, some funny, some sad and I would like to share some of them with you to see if I jog any memories of your favourite Old Firm game?
My first Old Firm game was way back in the in the days when both McAdam brothers played for both Glasgow clubs, back in the day when the Govan stand was not yet complete and when Celtic used to get a part of the enclosure also.
I went with my Dad and Uncle Bobby and we stood in the enclosure and watched Rangers beat Celtic 3-0 with Colin McAdam and John McDonald (2) rip through the Celtic defence as the Ibrox side also had two goals chalked off for offside!
My next Old Firm game was strangely enough on a Monday night, this time it was at Celtic Park and again two brothers played, this time for Celtic as Paul and Willie McStay played and scored as Celtic beat their old rivals 3-0, Davie Provan scored the other.
But we did see some nasty incidents that night and I think this is one of the reasons that my Mum and Wife don’t like me going to these matches, all the things that go on before and afterwards and things we can do without.
I have been lucky enough to witness quite a few over the years and not always at the correct end! ( not the best idea but Mr Main was protecting me at the time when Steven Davis scored to win the match for Rangers last season and Celtic never looked like scoring that day indeed there was more chance of me scoring from the Govan Stand!) It was very interesting to see an Old Firm match from the other side!
Here are just some of my Old Firm favourites that I have attended over the years
Celtic 1 Rangers 0 Alan Thompson
Celtic 2 Rangers 0 Craig Burley, Paul Lambert
Celtic 2 Rangers 0 Malky MacKay, Paulo di Canio
Celtic 3 Rangers 0 van Hooijdonk, Moore og, Vata
Celtic 3 Rangers 0 Rogan, Miller, Coyne
Celtic 2 Rangers 0 Creaney, Wdowczyk
Rangers 0 Celtic 2 Nicholas, Creaney
Rangers 1 Celtic 2 Collins, O’Neill
Celtic 1 Rangers 0 Coyne
Celtic 1 Rangers 0 Miller
Celtic 1 Rangers 0 Stark
Celtic 3 Rangers 1 McClair (2 pens) Archdeacon
Celtic 2 Rangers 1 Aitken, McGarvey
Rangers 2 Celtic 2 Stubbs, Larsson
Rangers 3 Celtic 3 Thom, Collins, van Hooijdonk
I managed to grab a few words with Scotland Under 21 coach Billy Stark recently and I asked him about scoring the winner on his Old Firm debut for the Hoops against Graeme Souness and his Rangers side.
“That was a game! You are talking about being nervous, I was really nervous that day, I think I was almost 30, plenty of experience, played in Cup Finals and everything else but this was my first Old Firm game was something else in terms of the build up.”
“Souness had won the League and League Cup the previous season and Celtic and the position they were in, Rangers were expected to go and sweep all that was before them so the first Old Firm game was pretty important for us to get a result and we all knew that and lucky for us we won the game, we played very well and I was lucky enough to score the goal and that was another bonus.”
I couldn’t get a better start than that scoring in an Old Firm match to win the game and that is remembered for my goal but we could have easily won that match three or four nil but it was fortunate for me scoring the only goal that was an important game for us and it got us off to a good start ,we had a few ups and a few downs as you generally do in a season but we never really looked back to be honest.”
So many memories of these games and many more, lots of stories to tell and memories to keep forever of these two great sides and fantastic stadiums and the unique atmosphere that they both create but remember, rivals for 90 minutes or a season but friends on both sides forever.
I have been lucky enough to attend these matches over the years with my Dad, Uncle’s Bobby, Mick and Tommy and my friends and its true what they say,
“There is nothing quite like an Old Firm game, let’s hope that Sunday’s is one to remember for all the right reasons!”