March 29, 2022 4 min read
Ask anyone in the world what the definitive fixture in Scottish football is and, with apologies to Hearts v Hibs, it’s the Glasgow derby. The latest edition happens this Sunday at noon, where Ibrox will once more host Celtic. The Hoops will return the favour on 17 April when the teams meet in the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup. Who will be drinking the champagne this weekend?
Vodka for Victory…
Over the past 150 years, the Celtic-Rangers derby has taken place over 400 times; for comparison, Manchester United have played Liverpool just over 200 times, and Barcelona have faced Real Madrid close to 250 times. The discrepancy is accounted for because the Scottish league has fewer teams and the Glasgow clubs usually meet each other at least four times a season.
Given that between them they have won 106 Scottish titles – many of which have come in batches when one of them has dominated the domestic game – alcohol will always be kept on ice. Celtic fans can order a special premium vodka in one of three flavours including pineapple and key lime, ready for full-time should they overcome their old foes.
One of those two defeats came at Celtic Park in February, with two goals scored by Reo Hatate, one of four Japanese players brought in by Celtic’s Australian gaffer Ange Postecoglou: Furuhashi, Ideguchi and Maeda are the other three, while England international Joe Hart has made the goalmouth his own. The current Celtic team includes Carl Starfelt of Sweden, Liel Abada and Nir Bitton of Israel, Tom Rogic of Australia, Jota from Portugal and the American Cameron Carter-Vickers.
There is a smattering of Scots too, of course. After Scott Brown left the club in 2021, Callum McGregor took the armband, as is fitting for a lad born in Glasgow. His Scottish team-mates include young Davie Turnbull, Greg Taylor and Stephen Welsh. James Forrest, meanwhile, has played almost 450 games in the green and white shirt.
The best (Catholic) players in and around Glasgow have always been signed up by Celtic. After winning the 1966 championship under the watchful eye of Jock Stein, they won the domestic treble and beat Inter Milan to become the first British team to win Europe’s most esteemed trophy. They wretchedly lost the 1970 European Cup Final to Feyenoord. Rangers, as they are sick of being reminded, have never won the European Cup, but they did win their 55th Scottish title last year.
The team toasted their success with champagne provided to them by Bohemian, which you can gift to your Rangers-supporting friend should Rangers take three points this weekend. Perhaps Alfredo Morelos will be fired up for one of the biggest games of the season, while the experience of Aaron Ramsey and Steven Davis will come in useful in the middle of the pitch. In goal, the 40-year-old Allan McGregor has spent the last five years back at the club whose ranks he came through.
Other top talent in the Rangers ranks include Romanian Ianis Hagi (son of Gheorghe), Finnish winger Glen Kamara and the English-born pair of Joe Aribo and Kemar Roofe, who are full internationals for Nigeria and Jamaica respectively. Connor Goldson has overcome heart issues to become a rock in the heart of the Rangers defence, the role which the likes of Colin Hendry and Richard Gough performed in Rangers’ glory years.
Englishmen Mark Hateley, Gary Stevens, Trevor Steven and Paul Gascoigne all hopped above the border to help Rangers dominate the 1990s. Indeed, the nine titles in a row under the management of Walter Smith were achieved with many fine Scottish internationals too: Ally McCoist scored goals and Andy Goram kept them out. The Bosman ruling outlawed the ‘three foreigner rule’ in European games and brought high-calibre stars from Denmark (Brian Laudrup), Germany (Jorg Albertz) and Ukraine (Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko).
Thanks initially to Henrik Larsson’s goals and Martin O’Neill’s management, Celtic have been the big dogs of Scottish football since the turn of the century. They lost one game in the 2013/14 season, the third title in a row, and in 2016/17 they went unbeaten in the league thanks to the prolific scoring figures of both Scott Sinclair and Moussa Dembélé, who scored 38 of the team’s 106 goals. The less said about Rangers, who were forced to play in the fourth tier and work their way back up the divisions after liquidation, the better.
Happily, the blue team from Glasgow are back where history shows they belong, and are also set to meet Braga in the quarter-finals of the Europa League. However well they do against them, and however consistent they are against the other ten teams in the Premiership, they know that their supporters crave a victory over the old enemy. Celtic were denied a tenth title in a row last season so they could do with an away victory this weekend.
Ladies and gentlemen, please charge your glasses to the city of Glasgow, which offers two fine fitba teams to toast. But will it be champagne for Rangers or vodka for Celtic? If it’s a draw, both sets of fans can celebrate the stalemate, or keep it on ice for a fortnight’s time when the two teams meet in the Scottish Cup semi-final.