Supporters can forget the Old Firm
7 August ~ One scrambling for existence in the Third Division and the other coining it in in Philadelphia: Aberdeen fans saw this weekend as the perfect time to prove everyone could make Scottish football work without the Old Firm. The "Sell Out Saturday" campaign was launched by sections of the Red Army to fill Pittodrie for their opening home game against Ross County this Saturday, and to disprove the mainstream media's hysterical "concerns" about what the death of Rangers would mean for the SPL. Celtic taking a weekend off to play Real Madrid in a friendly apparently emphasises their contempt for the Scottish game.
But some of the Aberdeen supporters' motivation reeks. Like a middle aged fatty who loses ten stone and ends up looking older, many Scottish football fans are clearly scared about what they might see now Rangers aren't blocking the mirror.
Filling your ground in the name of two clubs, neither of which is yours or are playing in the game you're attending, seems somewhat fixated about the very thing you're purporting to eschew. Aberdeen fans should be turning out to see their club because it's a four-time Scottish champion, because it's one of only three Scottish clubs to win a European trophy and because it's a new season with new signings under a proven manager in Craig Brown.
Ross County fans will be enjoying their first away trip in the top flight, less than 20 years after leaving the Highland League. The Staggies are also endeavouring to continue a remarkable year-long unbeaten league run. For their punters to have the Old Firm on their mind during such an occasion would be as difficult as it is inappropriate.
Dundee, awarded the slot vacated by the liquidated Rangers, are back in the SPL for the first time in eight years having survived a few administrations of their own. They took nearly 3,000 fans to Kilmarnock last weekend, none of which gave a rat's arse about Glasgow football.
The first Edinburgh derby of the season gives Hibs – Britain's first ever European Cup representatives – a chance to avenge their thumping in last season's all-Edinburgh Scottish Cup final and Hearts a chance to gloat. It's a derby with a history of coin-chucking and supporters attacking players, so I can't envisage much cross-party unity against entities from another city.
Inverness were even quicker than Ross County in the Highland League-to-SPL "meteoric rise" and they welcome Kilmarnock, the 1965 national champions who... you get the point: Fans should be supporting a club for its own sake.
Aberdonians have spent the last quarter century displacing their post-Fergie slump with the consolation of being proper football people, not sectarian glory-hunters. In the last decade they've only ever filled Pittodrie to tell Rangers fans this in person. But now they're encouraging a group of their own supporters to actively dislike a third party.
The idea that Old Firm fans enjoy unsold tickets at grounds other than their arch enemy's is ludicrous. I can't speak for Celtic punters but seeing swathes of vacant bucket seats in the home sections at places such as St Mirren, Kilmarnock and Dunfermline over the last decade gave me nothing but a tinge of depressed embarrassment for our national game.
I'm part of the problem because I wanted to see Rangers win, win and win again. But it would've been grossly insulting if I hadn't craved an SPL or Cup title as much as the fans of any other club. If these seats had been filled regularly over the last two decades then the Old Firm stranglehold wouldn't have been so strong.
I would never want or expect rival fans to have the slightest sympathy for me and my dead Rangers. When clubs and media spend years stoking and exploiting football enmities, I love it when punters refuse to switch them off at the fiscally prudent moment.
Just because Rangers are gone please don't stop being you. That just make me think you miss us more than you're letting on and that all the bile of the last 140 years was pointless. The SPL will thrive if punters feel the love. All "Sell Out Saturday" proves is that Scottish football's spitefulness would survive both halves of the Old Firm. Alex Anderson