Rangers & Celtic: The Decline Of The Northern Empire?

By on Oct 5, 2009 in Latest, Scottish Football | 6 comments

Arsene Wenger might think the Scots are still influential in Europe, but he’s about the only person left who does. It being October, it must be just about time for Scottish football pundits to do their usual soul-searching, surveying the wreckage of another failed qualification campaign for the national team, while both the Old Firm sit bottom of the European groups and all the various other qualifying round defeats are already forgotten along with most of the names of the East European teams who inflicted them. Plus ça change, as the French might put it.

Yet despite the general doom and gloom on the wider scene – or maybe because of it – enthusiasm remains undimmed for the first Glasgow derby of the season. I generally lean to the theory that the biggest and most famous rivalries are not necessarily the fiercest – that if you want a really tasty local derby you should head to Stoke or Bristol rather than Manchester or north London – but Glasgow is the big exception to that, and despite the greater frequency of these games the passions are as strong as ever, the pubs throughout the land once again full with green and blue replica shirts, and Radio Scotland works itself into its usual frenzy.

For this non-Old Firm fan the interest, such as it is, was to see just how bad Rangers are at the moment. If, as English football is rapidly discovering, increasing sums of money sloshing around the league has a tendency to increase the polarisation between the best and the rest, then maybe there’d be some hope that the more straitened circumstances in the SPL might reduce the effect. One or two other managers have even been indiscreet enough to say so, and if they do have a target within the top two there’s no doubt it’s Rangers they’re thinking of despite last year’s championship win. Such statements are mostly wishful thinking, particularly as no one else is setting any heather on fire behind them, but Rangers came into this game on the back of three straight goalless draws in the league as well as the midweek thumping from Sevilla, and with their financial circumstances in such state that they’ve had no money to spend in the last couple of transfer windows.

The evidence of today’s game, sadly, is that they’re not quite bad enough to be worth getting excited about. The other way of looking at it would be to note that Celtic didn’t look any great shakes either, and certainly you couldn’t claim that Rangers had to work very hard to create their early goals – Celtic’s defence opened up invitingly for Kenny Miller to stick a pair of slightly unconvincing prods past Boruc, and having responded almost immediately with a penalty Celtic failed to create much in the way of chances as they chased the game for the remaining hour and more. Back in the studio some blonde lass in a low cut top, aided and abetted by the ever-insightless Charlie Nicholas, tried to persuade me it had been a breathless game of non-stop action, but frenetic is about the kindest word one could find for it.

Long gone are the days when Laudrup or Moravcik could light up these games with a bit of inspiration; of the current crop, only Aiden McGeady can provide the odd bit of real magic, and even he’s much too flaky to ever convince you of the likelihood that he might be actually about to do so. But then derbies are rarely great games, it ended up being a perfectly competent performance that gave Rangers the three points and prevented them drifting too far behind at this early stage of the season.

The top two remain the top two then, after twenty four hours during which Hibernian nipped in between them, and any vague hopes of a sea change in Scottish football are quickly scotched once again. At least part of the problem may be that because a certain degree of the current financial straitening in Scottish football has been across the board, everyone has been affected – not just Celtic and Rangers. If these two have deteriorated (and it’s not wholly unreasonable to suggest that the current teams may be the worst Celtic or Rangers teams of the last twenty years), then the rest of the SPL often gives off the air of having deteriorated by a similar proportion. More troubling still for Rangers and Celtic supporters is that any hopes that either of these two might soon be a force again outside of their own back yard look equally forlorn.

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    6 Comments

  1. Definately the worst rangers team in 20 years! Very poor side! Celtic also a very poor side but the worst team in twenty years- NO! Wayne Biggins and carl muggleton were part of that particular worst Celtic side in 20 years!

    John smith

    October 5, 2009

  2. I’d argue about it being the worst Rangers side in 20 years. McLeish’s team with FanFan, Jeffers, Ostenstaad and a few other complete donkeys were surely far worse.

    This team has internationalists from some fairly decent ranked countries.

    It’s certainly not great stuff to watch though.

    Ross

    October 6, 2009

  3. O’Neil’s team was full of strong characters of genuine ability, such as Larsson, Sutton and Lennon. Strachan had at least one match winner in Nakamura. This current Celtic side is the poorest we’ve had for a long time. McManus and Caldwell are a disaster waiting to happen. Brown offers virtually nothing. If McDonald isn’t on his game Celtic don’t look likely to score. The Celtic fans are all asking where our supposed “massive financial advantage” has gone. Two consecutive last 16 finishes in the CL, almost zero debt. Lowest wage bill in a decade, over 50k season tickets sold and this dross on the pitch. Apart from McGeady not one of the present Celtic team would get a game with any top half EPL side.

    David

    October 6, 2009

  4. I have to agree that it wasn’t the very best of Old Firm matches and even the hype seemed watered down this weekend. I was disappointed too.

    What I do find odd is this continual need to ‘batter’ the Sottish game from the perspective of English football. It’s not only pointless but nonsensical. It always seems to me that the English, or rather London-centric press are bitter or disappointed that Scotland no longer produces the great players that once littered the English leagues in the past. I don’t know why.
    Yes we Scots are passionate about our football, yes we love our country and yes we love to waive the rag at the English, but I doubt any sensible Scot really thinks that we are as good or better than the upper English leagues. Nor do we regard ourselves as good on the International stage as we were 20 years ago when we could still cause an upset.
    Scotland has a population of just over 5M, less than the population of Greater London (7.5/6) So I don’t think we do too bad getting our nice little premier league on Sky sports, do you?

    George

    October 6, 2009

  5. Fair enough, both teams have signed some duff players and turned in some dismal performances in the last couple of decades (indeed, my mob have beaten Celtic in a League Cup final within that period) but to refine that slighty – I think it’s fair to say these are the poorest teams they’ve had *collectively* since the 80s.

    And maybe my use of a couple of English reference points in there was misleading, but just to be clear, I am a Scottish and Scottish-based fan, just not an Old Firm one.

    Gavin

    October 6, 2009

  6. Oui, tout a fait,

    However, a lot of those East European countries have just as proud a history in the world of football as many other countries, like Scotland, that have had a bigger, more affluent, influential nation ‘alongside’ them in their current or recent social, or demographic history and are only now starting to find their feet.
    Think of all those USSR teams that could call upon, literally, thousands of players, hundreds of teams, tens of countries and I think you’ll find that Scotland, in those days, could still hold their heads high amongst the rest, as could England (possibly under performing) Ireland and Wales.
    Again the point is irrelevant, pointless and possibly mean spirited.

    Cet obsession avec le foot écossaise (sic((let’s dance!)) C’est quoi ça?

    Or, ??????? ??????

    Don’t you just hate the nuances! One could say beware of Greeks (Sky) and so forth! Would the ‘lesser’ nations benefit from a time of hardship and lack of money (including the lower English divisions) as the Northern European leagues have had to? Would we see a sharp rise in home grown talent, an enforced academy culture because there was no-where else to hide, least of all behind a rich Russian or Arab sheikh, or foreign grown talent?

    By the way Gavin, I’m a Partick Thistle fan. I grew up in Springbank Street No61 (look at the map) right next to the ground and I look forward to The Jags (my five year old calls them Patrick as did I) taking their place in the Champions league.

    Isn’t that the point?

    George

    October 7, 2009

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