Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Old Firm - Am I the Only One Who Stopped Caring a While Ago?

So for my first entry in this blog, I thought I'd look at a topic that has been irritating me for the last year or so. And I can't be the only one.

That topic is the rivalry known as the Old Firm. Celtic and Rangers. Two of Europe's most vociferously-supported clubs, two of the most successful clubs around in terms of trophies won. Two teams that share a storied rivalry - one which, in many ways, transcends sport. The rivalry is laced with a series of disputes, not least the collision of the predominantly Catholic Celtic fanbase and the Protestant Rangers.

All very interesting. Very historic. But it's getting old.

For example: In the recently concluded 2010-11 season, we saw Celtic and Rangers go at it seven times. The record is fairly even - Rangers won 3, lost 2 and drew 2 of their meetings. Rangers also won the league for the third successive year. Before that, Celtic had won it for three successive years. Before that, they exchanged the title back and forth a few times. Hearts split the two of them once a few seasons ago, but apart from that, the Old Firm have been 1 and 2 in Scotland since the 1995-96 season.

Unfortunately, the nature of the game dictates that these two will be going at it as long as they both continue to exist. And it looks like, for a while at least, these will be the top two in the league. That's the thing about football; there can be no absolute, final victory; you will never "bury" your rival by simply beating them in a match. You get a rematch in a couple of months whatever happens.
I don't care anymore.
This is especially true in the Scottish Premier League, where you play each other four times per season. Even more true with these two clubs, who are almost guaranteed to go far in both cup competitions. In essence, every significant win, each new bit of one-upmanship, is tempered by the fact that your opponents will just come back at you later.

This is boring. I'm sick of it. It wasn't always so bad, not when players like Henrik Larsson were there to make it more interesting and watchable, but now it is running desperately low on both quality and intrigue. Every season I watch Sky Sports News to see them hyping up the "nail-bitingly close" title race and it's been between the same two clubs for as long as I can remember.

Yes, Man Utd and Chelsea have been dominating the English Premier League for a while (and hoovering up everyone else's best players while they're at it...), but at least Arsenal and Liverpool have provided some semblence of a challenge on a consistent basis (as opposed to Hearts, which was a one-off). You could even say this about La Liga, which Barcelona and Real Madrid historically dominate, but quite frankly it is exponentially easier to care about teams when they're arguably the top two in the world. Not to mention the fact that Valencia have won it recently, and that Sevilla have provided a genuine challenge as well.

I can't see how it can be that exciting as a supporter, either. Of course, each and every individual Old Firm match is hotly contested and disputed. But when it comes to trophies, so what? Sure, the moment is great. Winning a trophy is a great feeling, especially when you dispatch a hated rival in the process.

But you must know that next year that team you hate will be coming right back at you and will have a good shot at winning it yet again. It's eternal. Neither team has enough in the tank to "dominate" the other, so they just battle back and forth forever. This would be boring anyway, but with both teams so low on quality right now, it's become unbearable.

You expected a mention of Neil Lennon, didn't you? Nope. That's a story for another time.


  1. I think this is a very "outside" look at things. I'm sure people thought the NLD was boring most of the time with Arsenal dominating, but now interest will be peaking with how Sp*rs have started to be more competitive.

    That's the way the Old Firm has to look from the inside. Two teams at the top of the table, so the games are obviously massive, potentially determining who wins the league. I mean, we don't care because we don't support either club and because there aren't international superstars there anymore, but to most people in and around the Scottish game it's still a massive fixture.

    Just my two cents.

  2. Sometimes i think rivalries should be kept between the clubs and not broadcast so much, and this is especially true of this one. I think this is what you are getting at mate. Let them have their rivalry, but there is no need to let it take up all of Sky Sports News for days around the games.

    The same doesnt happen with other clubs. Whenever United play Liverpool or City, there is a bit of commotion but nothing on the same scale.