Old Firm Memories

Larsson and a young Mark Burchill had other ideas and my first Old Firm / Glasgow Derby finished in 5-1 route for Celtic.  “Fuck you Rangers we’re gonna win the League” I chanted deliriously as we left the ground.

We didn’t.  Dr. Doom was right, we’d only gone and made them mad.  Rangers ran away with the League and Celtic capitulated after the most alluring of false dawns.  But as far as season 1998/99 goes we’ll always have that dark, cold, rainy afternoon in November when we pumped Rangers 5-1.

There are certain moments in life that will stay with you no matter what; your first kiss, first listen of a seminal, life changing album, or, in my case my first Old Firm Derby match.  I can call it that because back then that’s what it was.  The original Glasgow Derby.

I remember that game quite vividly and have been thinking about it a lot in the past week as the next instalment of the current version of the Glasgow Derby looms large on the horizon.  This one I will remember for a different reason; it will be my last on Scottish soil for the foreseeable future as, in the week or so following Sunday’s clash, I will be setting off to begin a new chapter of my life in Hungary.  Still following the Hoops, still commenting on them, but just from a little further afield.

Here are my memories of my Glasgow Derby debut.

Celtic 5 Rangers 1, 21st November 1998

1998, my first year as a season book holder and Dr. Jo Venglos’ one and only season in charge of Celtic; a Celtic team who, despite stopping the 10 the previous season, were in a state of flux following Win Jansen’s summer departure.

Going into the game Celtic had won only 5 out of 14 League fixtures, drawing as many and had already lost on four occasions.  The most recent coming the previous week at McDiarmid Park where an inch perfect cross (clearance) from Vidar Riseth had gone straight to St. Johnstone’s Kieran McAnespie who turn home the winner.

But I was 14 at the time.  I didn’t care about recent form or the mounting injury list we had going into the game.  I didn’t care that I didn’t know who Lubo Morovcik or Johan Mjallby were at the time.  I was young, naive and thought we would win the Derby because we were CELTIC.  Where I got this confidence from I have no idea (other than above stated naivety), it certainly wasn’t from the previous ten years of watching the Hoops succumb to defeat after defeat at the hands of Rangers that’s for sure.

Game day came and it was proper pissing down with rain.  My brother and his mates left early to get a pint before getting the supporters bus to the game.  I had to wait in the house until just before the bus left as I wasn’t allowed to wait in the pub.  I’d also just had back surgery a few months earlier and my parents were, quite rightly, protective of me at that time.  Spending an afternoon jumping up and down like a lunatic at the football was not ideal in my condition; but in all probability we were going to humped anyway so there’d be no celebrations for me.

The journey to Paradise was routine.  Drink was passed round the bus which I most definitely did not partake of (Ed – you sure?) and Celtic and rebel songs were sung.  I remember being blown away when I got to the ground.  I’d been to many games at Celtic Park before, European nights under the lights but this was something else.  Now, there’s probably a bit of romance blurring my memories here but I recall being awestruck by the size of the stadium that day and the throng of green and white making their way to the game.

The noise inside the stadium was deafening and fuelled by passion, hatred, encouragement, defiance and a million other emotions.  I’d never experienced anything like it.  I made my way to my seat (Block 143, Row EE, Seat 7) and my brother told me he’d be up to see me at half time.

Then they played “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.  Scarves were held aloft around the entire stadium.  The hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention.  Holy Fuck.  This right here, 60,000 people signing in unison, encouraging their team, this is football.

(wrong game I know, but you get an idea of the spine tingling brilliance of the Celtic support signing YNWA in this video v Barca)

BOOM! Eleven minutes in Donnelly crossed, Larsson dummied, Moravcik swept home and I went bat-shit crazy.

“Don’t get too carried away” said Dr. Doom sitting behind me, the most dour, negative man you’re ever likely to meet.  “We’ve scored too early.  Cunts’ll fuck us now.”

But they didn’t.

My brother also didn’t make to half time before coming to see me.  Somehow he managed to navigate his way half way the stadium to celebrate the opener with me, he was never the quickest so God knows how he made it.

Moravcik added a second on 49 with a header and looked utterly bemused by the frenetic celebrations in the crowd that he forgot to celebrate himself.  Larsson made it 3 on 51 before van Bronckhorst pulled one back for Rangers.  “Told you” said the voice from behind.

Larsson and a young Mark Burchill had other ideas and my first Old Firm / Glasgow Derby finished in 5-1 route for Celtic.  “Fuck you Rangers we’re gonna win the League” I chanted deliriously as we left the ground.

We didn’t.  Dr. Doom was right, we’d only gone and made them mad.  Rangers ran away with the League and Celtic capitulated after the most alluring of false dawns.  But as far as season 1998/99 goes we’ll always have that dark, cold, rainy afternoon in November when we pumped Rangers 5-1.

Of course, there are other stand out Old Firm memories, the 6-1 game under Martin O’Neill, big Sutty’s goal to seal the green and white wash, the day we lost the League to them (and the guy who fell from the stand that day), the last ever Old Firm match in 2012 and many others.  For me though, I’ll never forget my first.

What was your first Old Firm game and greatest memories, I’d love to hear your stories.

Hail Hail

The Teams

Celtic:

Warner; Boyd, Mahe, Stubbs, Mjallby; O’Donnell, Lambert, Moravcik (Burchill), Riseth; Donnelly (Hannah), Larsson.

Rangers:

Niemi; Porrini, Numan, Wilson, Hendry; B. Ferguson (I. Ferguson), Kanchelskis (Vidmar), van Bronckhorst, Albertz; Guivarc’h, Wallace

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