Celtic cannot afford to lose to Rangers - but they still need each other

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Football News

Former Scottish Premier League chief executive Roger Mitchell discusses Sunday's showdown in Glasgow.

Knowing a bit about sports rights, I should have had more patience, but I was in full Ari Gold mode: “You either cover Scottish football or you don’t. I don't care if the Cup is not the SPFL. You only had one job, and it was this game. Otherwise don't bother! ”. The lady from Mr Berlusconi’s company seems confused, but said hope was not lost, and they were trying.

Of course they are, because like David Hayman offered in the famous Sky ad, on Sunday there is only one question that matters, are you green or blue. No-one wants to know anything else.

The rest of the envious Scottish football eco-system, probably representing in total less than a quarter of revenues, has significant trouble accepting a simple fact.

The Old Firm is Scottish football. They snarl how attendances at Hearts and Aberdeen have improved without Rangers. How only they, in the full regalia of their working-class-hero persona, represent the true community values of following a team, not seeking glory.

Whilst they, and their stance, is more than worthy, it dramatically misses the point. Following either of the Glasgow clubs (sorry Thistle, I'm not stopping to be politically correct) is not in any way about glory; its about identity. In my case, about being Celtic-minded.

Ah, that fenian code for the religion of Constantine. After all bigotry sells right? No, Celtic-minded is not about any particular brand of worship, it is about the struggles of the outsider. Even the socially inept, where a Fergus MaCann could only have been a Celtic fan, with a destiny to save the club. That is the archetypal Celtic-minded narrative, and we should be proud.

A community of welcome that embraces all newcomers, and offers solace to the harsh reality of exclusion and disadvantage. If the Syrian exodus had a team, it would be our team. It would be the one place they would point to when they arrived in a cold and grey city. Celtic Park was, and is, that place. “You’ll find people there, go, and join them. They are like you”.

Celtic-minded is when you encounter another, and you already know that 70/80% of your background is similar. Same stories, and songs, on the knee of your grandparents with incomplete Scottish accents; tales of hardship and unfair rejection. Of sacrifice to make sure our generation had a better chance; and God we did have. Stories of John Thompson, told, probably omitting the tragic sorrow of English’s "seven years of joyless sport."

Celtic united

I never said Celtic-minded was always fair. Families never are. Celtic-minded is realising the ironic pleasure of a Protestant turning the losing mentality of a bunch of ball jugglers into the dynasty that was, where for 10 years the Celtic shirt didn't ever shrink to fit the lesser player.

This is our brand. Truly glorious, from Lisbon to Seville. But the history of the world consistency reminds us that we are defined as much by our rivals, as by ourself. The outsider has no definition without the insider. Brunelleschi would have called it “perspective”.

Nevermore so than in sport, where heroic struggles on the curated pristine grass replaces the potted hillocks of battlefields of old. (Insert you own Hampden insult here). McEnroe cried when he heard Borg had retired at an absurdly young age. You can't empathise with La Motta without understanding Robinson. Ovett would train twice on Christmas Day, possessed with the thought that “he” too would have put in a session.

Hence how truly absurd the obtuse Celtic fans claiming they have no need for Rangers. Or howling at the moon that its actually a new club called Sevco. For right or wrong, the intensity of this relationship dictates that one cannot live without the other. And deep down, we really do all know its for sure them. What matter a silly name? Even from afar, in some kind of unnatural way, I can feel their presence grows. We know them by their noise! The inexplicably disturbing “we arra peepel” chant awakens from hibernation, and we, like Willard: “Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker, and every minute Charlie squats in the bush, he gets stronger”.

They are coming. Rangers are coming. How magnificent! This is what the lady on the phone couldn't understand.

Derby day

To the match itself, one realises that through limited playing abilities on show, and an appalling playing surface, this game will not be decided by skill. Never has “whoever wants it most” been more true.

Warburton is the kind of data-led modern manager that Delia aspires to be. Ronnie’s problem is that he lacks the biggest attribute demanded in Old Firm Glasgow. Jock Stein always “filled the room”. Jock Wallace “had an aura”. Souness and O’Neill were formidable “personalities”. Delia just looks in the wrong movie, no matter how many roars.

And I had been in favour of the profile chosen at the time, but the stop-loss should have kicked in a good while ago. If Rangers do prevail on Sunday, Ronnie should know well the times of the last bus from Buchanan Street.

Who do you think will come out on top this weekend?

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