Scottish football tends to get a hard time from those who consider it inferior to the English game, but what is undeniable is that the Old Firm derby between Celtic and Rangers is one of the most impassioned and entertaining fixtures you could ever wish to watch.
Dating back well over a century, there have been more than 400 meetings between the two teams and more rash tackles than could ever possibly be recorded. It’s a match played between 22 men kicking a bag of wind around, but it runs much deeper than that: there is a dark and blood-lined political and socio-cultural undertone to the game.
This is typically a feisty fixture in which the tackles fly in, and while there hasn’t been a red card shown in the last five Old Firm derbies, prior to that there were 13 shown in just 16 encounters!
Rangers, the underdogs, will be looking to make their mark on Celtic when the two teams meet at Ibrox on Saturday. The bookmakers have priced the Gers at 4/5 to be shown four or more cards during the match, and given what has gone before that seems like great value!
Here are five of the most memorable, contentious and downright naughty moments in Old Firm history:
Diouf vs Brown
It goes without saying that passionate encounters like the Old Firm derby breed individual rivalries and bitter personal battles that appear ready to boil over at any time.
El-Hadj Diouf, in 2011 a Rangers player, had hardly ingratiated himself to the Celtic fans by spitting on their legend Stan Petrov during an earlier meeting, and while the mild-mannered Petrov kept himself to himself, the next Old Firm match would bring Diouf up against a player who isn’t afraid to give as good as he gets: Scott Brown.
The pair enjoyed a running battle at Ibrox that occasionally threatened to turn into something more sinister. With Rangers 2-1 up, Brown picked up a loose ball on the edge of the 18-yar-box and let loose a left-footed screamer that hurtled into the back of the net.
How did Brown celebrate? By standing about 10cm away from Diouf, arms aloft and giving him the stare down. It remains one of the most iconic and enduring images of the fixture’s modern era.
Lennon vs McCoist
The 2010/11 meetings between the two teams were more ferocious than usual, and while the dust-up between Brown and Diouf was wholly predictable, the unsavoury scenes involving Neil Lennon and Ally McCoist were less so.
Celtic closed out a 1-0 win on home soil that was played out in ‘lively’ fashion, and the BBC Scotland cameras panned round to see Celtic boss Lennon shake hands with Rangers assistant McCoist.
They greeted each other warmly, but as McCoist got closer he whispered something in Lennon’s ear. Cue pandemonium, as dozens of members of staff from either side became embroiled in a free for all.
To this day Lennon has refused to reveal what everybody’s favourite former Question of Sport team captain said, but needless to say they were not discussing the weather.
Gazza Plays the Tune
There is a religious undertone to the Old Firm game, with the Protestants of Rangers regularly clashing with the Catholics of Celtic.
Even the slightest of provocations can cause ugly scenes, and it was only going to end one way when the Gers signed arch wind-up merchant Paul Gascoigne in 1995.
During a Rangers vs Celtic clash in 1998, Gazza celebrated by playing an imaginary flute – a reference to The Sash, a song favoured by Ulster loyalists.
As if to highlight how deeply the bad blood runs, Gazza admitted afterwards that he received death threats from the IRA, and was even trained in how to check for bombs placed on his car and property.
That whole incident is best forgotten by all parties, so instead here’s McCoist telling a tale about the time he and Gazza pulled an incredible prank on teammate Gordon Durie:
Mo Johnston, Mo’ Problems
There are some unwritten rules in football of things you simply do not do, and joining Rangers after playing for Celtic is one of them.
To make matters worse, Mo Johnston was a devout Catholic, but that did not stop him from signing on the dotted line for the Gers back in the late 1980s.
It caused uproar amongst supporters of both teams, with Celtic fans burning effigies of Johnston and some Rangers and refusing to watch their team until he left the club.
How could things get any worse? The striker would go on to score the winner for Rangers against Celtic in an Old Firm classic back in 1988. Brave boy indeed.
The Shame Game
In 1999 a whole bunch of ingredients were thrown into the mix which resulted in one of the most bad-tempered Old Firm derbies in history.
The recipe for disaster started with the timing of the game: it was played at 6pm on a Bank Holiday Sunday – the last evening kick off in an Old Firm derby. Matters were made worse by the fact that Rangers could claim the title if they beat Celtic on their own patch.
If the all-day drinking explained some of the antics of the fans – more than 60 arrests were made before and after the match, while referee Hugh Dallas was hit by a coin – only old-fashioned pride could explain the behaviour of the players.
Rod Wallace, Stephane Mahe and Vidar Riseth were all shown red cards for uncompromising tackles, while Rangers – who ran out 3-0 winners to clinch the Scottish Premiership crown – were pelted with missiles after celebrating in front of the Celtic fans. It remains one of the most ill-tempered Old Firm games in history.