Bad days were even worse and the bitterness I felt – still feel, more is the pity – towards the hellish legion was palpable and the pain real enough to taste.
Accordingly I decided in the last couple of years that I would avoid these encounters with the Uruk-hai, save myself the anger and all the negative emotions that these games bring out, and await the result. When we win the joy is just as sweet as if I had watched it, and thanks to the miracles of modern technology I can experience every kick and enjoy every goal. If we lose I suffer the pain just as much, but I can cocoon myself from the media coverage and have a choice as to which parts if any I wish to watch.
Consequently on Sunday I spent the couple of hours while the Celts were playing walking across the links – the weather was too extreme to play golf – and along the Southerness shore in a rain swept gale, returning to the car just in time to get the score. As it was anything but a disaster and the reports about our Bhoys were extremely positive, I spent my time today watching the whole game with the benefit of knowing more or less how it would unfold.
There was much to be pleased about in the manner in which the Celtic came back twice to gain a replay and if truth be told they would not have been unworthy winners. Their possession football was a treat to behold at times and both goals were well worked and beautifully executed. Most of our players showed how far they had come since the first derby of the season when despite taking a deserved lead they simply froze like rabbits caught in the headlights when put under pressure by Smith’s storm-troopers.
They played with an authority and a calmness which is rarely seen in the hurly burly of the Scottish game and the use of the squad by the manager in adversity showed how far he has come as well.
After the game I sent Eddie a text asking for his thoughts. He replied that he was pleased but felt we should have won it. Having seen it I echo his view, and hope that we have not let a golden opportunity slip away.
The Huns are always dangerous opponents even when they are crap. I feel that we have better players than them, and that they know this as well as we do, but if ever there was a club based on pragmatism rather than romance it is Rangers, and they will stop at nothing to ensure that it is they and not us who will visit the Highlands in the next round.
Despite all our great football, they did make a number of gilt edged chances – mainly as a result of carelessness by Celtic players in dangerous areas. There are a number of Celts who are really comfortable with the football. Big Dan is not one of them and he several times came close to repeating his Dundee Utd., ICT and The Huns at Parkhead howlers, putting his side in harm’s way needlessly.
Much was made of Mark Wilson’s performance and for most of the game he was excellent, but a number of chances were created down his flank – indeed the penalty came from a run in Izzy’s domain despite the tremendous contribution he made throughout.
If we are going to push our full backs forward in such a cavalier manner, the others must ensure that our opponents don’t capitalise on such a positive approach to the game. On more than one occasion at Ibrox some one who was charged with defensive duties was posted missing and this is something that has to be rectified if we are to aspire to the greatness that is promised by the talent in the present squad.
Some teams feed off scraps while others attack with vigour, throwing all their energies into going forward. Celtic, even in their most pragmatic periods under Stein and O’Neill, were of the latter type. The Huns however are almost a stereotype of the culture which sustained them for so long – dour, determined, and utilitarian. It might not be admirable, but they have for most of their existence shown that it works for them.
This cup tie is not yet over.
The league game takes on a greater significance in that it offers both teams an opportunity to set down a marker for the battles to come. One would hope that we would win them all, but history tells us that this is unlikely. Given a choice I would rather win the two league games, but we can but hope for more. Anything less would be problematic for our dreams of success for this season.
I just hope that I enjoy watching the re-runs as much as I did at New Year.