20 March ~ You could blame Franz Beckenbauer for the confrontation that marked the last Old Firm match. Maybe Michel Platini too: they set the trend for managers to stand on the sidelines rather than remaining in the dugout. Put Ally McCoist and Neil Lennon on the Old Firm touchline and you don’t get the aloof stateliness in which Beckenbauer and Platini specialised. Instead, they are at each other’s throats. More shocking than Lennon and McCoist going head to head is that they are managers at all. McCoist looked more suited to his previous post-playing-career enterprise as a laughing, joshing, lightweight television personality. Lennon’s playing career, on and off the field, was littered with indisciplined daftness.

Their appointments reflect the fact that Celtic and Rangers, opponents today in the Co-operative Insurance Cup final, are seriously strapped for cash. Employing young, inexperienced, immature managers is the cheap option. With the quality of Old Firm players in sharp decline over the past half-decade and the recession biting at attendances, appointing individuals closely associated with the core identities of each club reflects a desperate pandering to the lowest-common-denominator element in the two supports. Celtic and Rangers are so closely intertwined that their managerial appointments down the years reflect their closeness to each other, which becomes almost mimicry at times.

The police at Hampden today will, apparently, address players and managers pre-match as to their expected conduct so a less frenzied afternoon can be expected on the sidelines, not least given that Lennon will be seated in the stand as he sees out a magnificent eight-match touchline ban in a moody silence that has, so far, lasted since that last Old Firm joust on March 2.

As for the football, Celtic seem slightly the better side of the two, if only because they have younger legs and a couple of budding talents in Emilio Izaguirre, the Honduran World Cup left-back, and Gary Hooper, called into England’s Under-21 squad this week. Rangers, forced to under-invest in their squad in the past couple of years, look in need of reconstruction when McCoist officially takes over as manager from Walter Smith this summer.

With Celtic having had the better of the fixture recently, Rangers may be a due a turn, given the frenzied, often haphazard nature of these occasions. After all, the “form book goes out the window” for Old Firm matches, according to received wisdom. Let’s hope it doesn’t hit anyone as it performs that habitual trajectory on Sunday, or we’ll have another post-match summit involving Scotland’s first minister, police and the clubs’ chief executives as to how to deal with the terrible social side-effects of the Old Firm – a problem that has only been around for a century or so. Graham McColl

Comments (14)
Comment by grahammccollisafud 2011-03-20 08:19:06

what a pile of shite

Comment by stefanbienkowski 2011-03-20 08:50:11

An interesting angle to look at that situation in Glasgow. But I'm not entirely sure I'd agree.

Yes you could argue that Lennon and Mccoist are inexperienced but their appointments both come of the back of both clubs investing heavily in experienced coaches prior to their Installments.

Rangers currently have a man who many would argue is perhaps the best coach they've had in the past 20-30 years, in Walter Smith, in charge to teach Mccoist the ways of the game and Celtic's appointment of Lennon was only down to his incredibly impressive stint in charge as interim coach after Tony Mowbary was relieved of his job with a few million in his back pocket.

It's also a little hasty to assume that both clubs are desperate if they have installed former players in charge. A quick look across Europe and some of the biggest sides in World football share the same approach( inter, Ajax, Liverpool, Barcelona, etc) without any great concern over their finances or determination to win trophies.

Comment by CUjimmy 2011-03-20 09:53:45

Graham McColl is dead right. You never see the older, more mature managers like Walter Smith or Jim Jeffries, or the ones in the English premier, getting into trouble. Sir Alex Ferguson never gets into trouble.
Plus, Neil Lennon's done a terrible job at Celtic, without having to deal with death threats to his familly. Who knocked Celtic out of Europe? Oh yeah, that useless Dutch team who would never beat an English premier club- apart from Liverpool, of course.
This is just another lazy, biased, cowardly piece of journalism from the lazy, biased, cowardly football journalists that you get in both Scotland and England. Old Firm disgrace...blah, blah, blah. Scottish footbal rubbish...blah, blah, blah. There we go, job done! Easy life!
Do some research. Be original. Grow a backbone.

Comment by D.S. 2011-03-20 10:16:20

Lennon had an incredibly impressive stint after taking over from Mowbray? He won lots of games in the SPL but by that point Rangers had the league all but won. No real pressure on him there.

He cost Celtic their best chance of a trophy by getting knocked out of the Scottish Cup by Ross County...who he had watched play an identical strategy against Dunfermline the previous week and knew exactly how they would play. Hardly compelling evidence for appointing him this season. It's worked alright so far but he was hardly an obvious choice for manager.

Jimmy - has he done a terrible job? They're top of the league just now, they're in a cup final today, they're still in the Scottish Cup, he could in theory win the treble this season.

Comment by graham mccoll 2011-03-20 10:23:23

Old Firm fans - don't you just love them. Even when they're wrong they're right. CUJimmy tells me to do some research even though he manages to make a glaring error in his three short paragraphs. Or else they simply resort to personal abuse as in the case of the charmingly-named first "contributor".

Comment by grahammccollisafud 2011-03-20 10:51:44

Re: my username - that'll be the famously Scottish trait of calling a spade a spade. You've a cheek pulling anyone up for glaring errors. McCoist is a manager? You'd better give him a call and let him know, I'm sure he'll be delighted to know he's got an early promotion. Old Firm decline over the past 5 years? I seem to recall both teams qualifying out of their CL groups and a UEFA cup final in that time. Lennon serving out an 8 match ban, have you actually bothered to read a Scottish newspaper this week? CUJimmy called it spot-on, a dribblingly poor 'article' from someone who clearly knows hee-haw about the subject of his ire.

Comment by Alloa Dan 2011-03-20 11:02:44

As McColl is the author of umpteen books about Celtic I think he's highly unlikely to be biased against The Lurgan Bigot or ignorant about Scottish football.

Comment by frontier psychiatrist 2011-03-20 11:22:21

CUJimmy, sarcasm aside is beating Liverpool really a sign of not being useless, these days? What was that you were saying about lazy journalism?

Comment by graham mccoll 2011-03-20 11:55:26

Hiding behind an obnoxious assumed user name is an interesting interpretation of "calling a spade a spade". Lennon is indeed serving an eight-game ban and McCoist is indeed the Rangers manager-elect, as I point out in the article.

Comment by Analogue Bubblebath II 2011-03-20 12:14:45

McCoist isn't the Rangers manager. Walter Smith (who seems miraculously to have escaped any criticism in the Scottish press for repeatedly sending his players out to kick the legs off the oppposition) is, and will remain so till the summer.

So for the time being it would be more useful to concentrate on him, rather than dwelling on a guy who isn't even in charge.

Re Celtic's finances -- their debt is very small in relative terms. Their frugal spending in recent years has been borne more out of a desire to keep the books in decent shape rather than an absence of actual cash.

They have seen what's been happening at Rangers over the last 7-8 years and they have no desire to go down the same road. That's why they're buying up players (albeit good ones) from Israeli and Honduran and Greek clubs, and from Scunthorpe.

Comment by HarryWainwright 2011-03-21 09:40:20

I disagree strongly with the comments bordering on the abusive which have appeared in this thread. They would appear to come from the same vessel which brought about the angry scenes at the recent game.

Graham is right. It is absurd that Alex McLeish would end up moving to Birmingham City from a team with a great european pedigree. It is also the case that many Premiership players see Scotland as a chance to play out or rehabilitate their careers. The Scottish League has the same financial problem as those in the low countries where the Dutch big three are haemorraging talent from their youth systems and the Belgian teams have regularly had to merge to avoid bankruptcy. The only second tier league in Europe which seems to be prospering is the Portuguese league, and this is partly because they benefit from a healthy influx of Brazilians.

I regularly watch SPL games involving teams other than the big two on BBC Alba, and I have to say that the standard is not greatly above the League of Ireland games I used to watch growing up in Dublin. I am not even sure that it is purely a question of money - the SPL seems to have ended up in a cycle of reactive management with a loss of judgement.

Scottish club football's great gift is it's passion - blood and thunder football which can destabilise the greatest teams. Rangers had PSV on the ropes for long periods last week, despite being undone by one moment of real quality. There are foundations to build on, but it needs organizational vision and probably a little help from Mr Platini, to put the Old Firm teams in a place where they can seriously challenge in Europe again.

I would not criticise this article too harshly. You could say similar things about most of the smaller leagues in Europe. If only Scotland had a dual-citizenship connection with Argentina....

Comment by gffabm 2011-03-22 11:05:46

Even Bill Leckie would be embarrassed with this. My six year old could write a more informed piece.

Comment by Alex Anderson 2011-03-22 13:42:33

It's when you look at the comments posted here that it hits you again like a big wet fish across the coupon ("Hoh!He said 'fish' ... and it'll defineetleey be Friday some time this week ... he must be a pyoor kafflik!!") - the most hated component of the Old Firm debate is common sense. Never mind drink, religion, Lennon or Diouf - the one thing we just can't ABIDE is a calm discussion ... although objectivity had also better run for its life ("is he telling me tae run fur mah life??? Is he making death threats??!! He's pyoor trying tae kill Neil Lennon!!!").

If they weren't so insulting to a guy who clearly knows what he's talking about, the more spectacular reactions to this piece would be hilarious: Just scatter-gun BILE, all of which bares absolutely no relevance to what's being said while clearly inspired by perceived "agendas". Oh, ye just gotta love an agenda ..

Now, how do I change my user name to something incorporating "UDA" ...

Comment by LobeyDosser 2011-05-09 08:04:53

The point about populist appointments at the Old Firm is a fair one. McCoist in particular could be a "popular" choice at any club given his national status as a charming, cheeky, celeb albeit 2nd division of that ilk. However more sensible heads would prefer experience over personality anytime.

As for the social side effects of the Old Firm, I think we have got that one the wrong way round, surely football supporters simply reflect social cultures and norms of their communities rather than create them?

And just for the record books, the highest number of arrests at any Old Firm encounter in recent years was 34 at this seasons Scottish Cup replay at Parkhead. Most were for drunkeness and other minor offences, none for violence.

It would be reasonable to conclude then that 34 nicked out of 50,000 is probably one of the lowest arrest/attendance ratio of any equivalent derby in the UK.

And so it appears that the Old Firm in reality does not often live up to the sacremongering media myths.

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