Whether we like it or not (and I know most of us don’t) tomorrow is being touted as an “Old Firm game” by a media machine that simply won’t quit on the subject. It’s wearying, it’s desperate, it’s an insult to our intelligence, but it’s just going to go on and on and on.
We will continue to oppose it, of course, and speak up against it, but to many in the establishment the fiction has been embraced in full. They’ve chosen to ignore objective fact and reality. They’ve chosen to treat this club as if it was Rangers.
Tomorrow, for 90 minutes, I hope our side does the same.
Because if we approach this game as if it were against them we will press and fight for every ball and claw our way towards goal if that’s what it takes. There will be no let up. There will be no mercy. There will be no slacking off, such as we saw during the League Cup semi-final, where we appeared content to take it easy, as if there was no wish to inflict an epochal hammering.
I’ve long argued that those who’ve embraced the Survival Lie are in danger of seizing their fantasy by the blade.
It is more dangerous to them than to us.
The hype that surrounds is utterly misplaced when one considers the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two clubs, and I can write all I want about the accounts and the financial strengths of them until I’m blue in the face but nothing will hammer the point across to their media lackies and their supporters more than giving them a right good hiding on the pitch will.
This game tomorrow should be an opportunity to show this lot and the press how far behind us they actually are. For all the media hype and spin and their efforts to ram the Survival Lie down our throats the very idea that they are our biggest rivals or closest challengers is ridiculous, and it’s an insult to the other clubs in the league.
Tomorrow we can put a big hole in the charade.
For too many people, this match is a call back to days gone by. It’s nothing of the sort. This match is the first game of a brand new future. The two cup ties which came before it were minor skirmishes, with little at stake beyond the obvious places in the finals.
They didn’t define the trajectories of these clubs like tomorrow can.
If we win we move four points clear of them in the league with a game in hand. That would be a commanding lead in any circumstances but what you have to bear in mind here is this isn’t a dozen games into the campaign; we’ll have played four matches.
The gulf is enormous and that will start to be reflected by the league table, whatever our winning margin.
But a big winning margin sends a signal no-one can ignore, least of all those at Ibrox. If we inflict a heavy defeat on them the pressure that will generate will be enormous, and may well have a domino effect on their club. Their next game in the league will be Ross County at home … if they slip, at all, in that one Aberdeen away becomes a do-or-die fixture for Warburton and his players. They’ve not had to cope with that kind of pressure before.
I think they’ll crack, and once the first fissure is in the dam the whole thing is going to crumble and fall.
Their supporters, who’ve been force-fed this nonsense to get them to buy season tickets, won’t tolerate years of living in the shadows any more than their manager will get those years to build a team. Once those dominos start to fall the momentum will be unstoppable.
Listen, I’ve said this a hundred times in a hundred ways but I sometimes still wonder if I’ve done justice to the subject.
The size of the problem they’ve got over there is difficult to fully wrap your brain around, but the best way to look at it is to go back to the David Murray years at Rangers, on which their current delusions of grandeur are based.
Once you accept that their club didn’t have that money to spend in the first place – it was all bank debt and then EBT fraud – you are forced to conclude that they might never have won nine in a row, far less stopped Martin O’Neill or Gordon Strachan from putting us out of sight had they been forced to live within their means.
From the moment the banks crashed in 2008 Rangers was living on borrowed time.
Their cost base was too high, their income too little, and eventually the crash was certain to come. Major cuts would have been the least of it; in my view administration was guaranteed and liquidation may well have followed even without Craig Whyte.
What we’re dealing with here is the law of hard numbers.
We earn more than they do and we have a global reach they can only dream about. We promote ourselves beyond these borders; they narrow the potential scope of their fan base with every sectarian stunt like we saw last weekend. They’ve just about maxed out their earning potential and it’s not yet clear if Celtic has done the same, but even if we have hit the ceiling of it (and that ceiling could be touching £80 million in this financial year if things proceed according to plan) there’s still room to spare.
They are not going to challenge us for a long, long, long time and I can’t foresee the circumstances under which they might. Over the course of the next couple of years the picture is going to become all too clear to everyone who’s bought into the Survival Lie, because the simple truth of it, and the one they absolutely refuse to face above everything else, is that it simply does not matter at all whether the history continues or not.
Because the club they grew up watching and cheering on never existed in the first place in the way they thought it did.
All liquidation really did is reset the clock and forced the Ibrox operation to live within its means.
Survival Lie or not, they are now what they would always have been, without the ridiculous bank financing and the EBT frauds.
A pale shadow of Celtic.
For 90 minutes tomorrow we have a chance to rub their faces in reality.
In Brendan We Trust.