I’m not surprised that the Paddy Power oddsmakers have Rangers as favourites, they’re on a bounce at the minute. And they are at home, after all.
But it’s not often been the case that they’ve been the favourites over the last five years. How do they deal with that? And it’s something new for Celtic, too, it might spur them on.
Everything in the world is great for Rangers just now. Winning games gives you momentum and takes the pressure off – no one really looks closer than the results.
But all the propaganda goes out the window once everyone arrives in the stadium, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about this game.
It’s the first time Rangers have had this kind of pressure – people saying ‘listen, you’re a good team, you can win this’ – and they have to find players who can deal with that. It’s massive pressure.
Some of the players have been talking, saying they’ve got to do this and that, but it’s time to prove it.
Everything’s rosy at Rangers, but players are being judged on two or three games now. You only really know a player’s value, though, over the length of his contract, or when he leaves.
You’ll find a real player in big games, and this is it. It’s one of those games that, if you play badly for 20 games but score the winner in the Old Firm, you’ll be a hero. The previous 20 games are completely forgotten about.
And vice versa – one mistake or miss, and you’ll be remembered for that, not the 20 games before of playing well.
All the hype and the rest of it can be a huge problem for Rangers, if it’s the same old story on the pitch. How disappointing would that be for them?
Celtic have had to ask questions
Missing out on the Champions League was huge for Celtic, and Scottish football.
The club have had to ask themselves difficult questions. Not just performance-related, but about recruitment, too.
Clearly, the defence isn’t settled yet, that’s a problem. You can play around with your front six, but dealing with a brand new back four is more dangerous. And that’s what Celtic are doing right now.
I had the same thing when I first went to Celtic – I literally didn’t have a club what my back four was for my first three games. My centre half was disappearing to talk to other clubs, my right back had never spoken to anyone in his life and nobody knew him. It was a nightmare.
So that’s something Rangers will be looking at. You saw what happened, against Cluj, when that defence was tested.
It isn’t joining a club like Celtic. You can have been a good player elsewhere, but play two games at Celtic and become a bad player. I don’t care what club they’ve come from – unless it’s Barcelona or Manchester United – they’ve never had to deal with that kind of scrutiny.
And the fans are panicking. You can see that from some of the stuff written online. But Celtic couldn’t be in better hands at the minute, in terms of manager and chief executive.
The rest of the footballing world doesn’t realise the pressure that Lenny and the board are under, because they’ve won eight on the trot.
Anywhere else, people would be throwing themselves at your feet in the street. At Celtic, there’s a crisis after one bad result.
Peter Lawwell has won about 12 championships, yet people are asking if he’s the right man for the job. Do me a favour! He’s the only man for the job. Look at where the club has come from when he came in. The club were deeply in debt in 2004-05, and now look at them.
And Lenny does his job brilliantly. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, his style, but it’s definitely the way the players like it, when he stands up for them in public.
You couldn’t get a more perfect two. One who grits his teeth and smiles through the chaos (one bad result, to you and me), and one who’s seen everything at Celtic over the last 15 years. I don’t think anyone else could deal with the craziness that goes on.
Steven and Lenny will just want to get on with it
I wouldn’t say I miss the Old Firm games – I only really enjoyed the actual 90 minutes, the game. I wouldn’t enjoy the build up to it.
I know the crowd is screaming, but you’re away from the nonsense, there’s a reality to the match. What you’re doing before and after, what you’re dealing with, is nonsense – you spend a lot of time talking about stuff that’s nothing to do with football.
What you’re dealing with in the game is a reality, in front of your eyes, and you can help to do something about it.
I loved the noise, the colours, the challenge of looking at my subs and trying to effect change – the challenge of the bench next to me, are they getting uppity, do I need to stand my ground here? I miss that, but not the rest of it.
Steven and Lenny will be similar, they’ll just want to get to the game now. The talking’s done, they’ve said all they could possibly say and more, it’s time to play.
UEFA were right to close part of Ibrox
I understand why Steven Gerrard wants to leave it at the statement the club made – they don’t want to isolate themselves from the fans. They can’t keep condemning them – Rangers have answered the question, and now they want to move on. I get that.
I was never really in favour of strict liability. I didn’t think a few idiots should make 60,000 real fans suffer. But, the more I see it now, the more I change my mind.
It it’s a group thing, hundreds or thousands of people, then we have to close the section that is responsible. We need to stop these people who are embarrassing their club, and the whole of Scottish football.
I don’t love the idea of closing a whole stadium down but if the hatred spreads, you have to think about that as well.
We also have to monitor what the effects of this are. Does it make any difference at all to Rangers? Does it make it easier for the players and board to be proud of their club? If it does, it’s the route we must go down. If it doesn’t change anything, we need another rethink.
The funny thing is, these people shouting and screaming, the rest of the world don’t care what they think about religion. We really don’t. It’s just between you two groups, the rest of us aren’t interested in what you’re singing about.