This week feels very much the way the days leading up to the cup semi final at Hampden did. Low key. As if it’s nothing. I knew we would win that day before a ball was even kicked, and the only nerves I felt were those you feel before any major cup tie.
There was none of that frisson I remember so well from “Rangers” games in the past.
Weirder still was the week in the run up to Ibrox the last time.
There was no sense of nervousness at all, just a frank anticipation. I said to my mate’s good lady that we’d know the outcome ten minutes into the match, give or take. After only five I turned to her and said “Nothing to worry about. We’ve shown up. We’ll do this mob today.” And we did.
I don’t feel the least bit nervous this time either, and last night I commented on that over on the Facebook page, and a lot of people agree; the juice has gone out of this.
The media can try to bum it up as an “Old Firm” game if they like, but it’s not one and it never will be again.
This, however, has nothing to do with rivalry; I am heading across to Munich next month and I do feel anticipation and a sense of nervousness over that already, as you do preparing for any big game … and here there’s just nothing at all.
This is no longer a big game.
Going to Ibrox was once, even when there was nothing at stake but pride.
They bragged after beating Ronny’s team on penalties … but I always thought the last laugh over that would be ours, and when Hibs dispatched them a day after we’d appointed Brendan Rodgers as manager I knew who the real victors had been.
I remember bad days at Ibrox, and some beautiful, wonderful ones.
I don’t ever remember going there feeling no nerves.
There are none here. I won’t be there, but I don’t think I’d feel differently if I was.
Is it over? Forever? Are we never going to feel those nerves again?
I would love that, you know, if this game became so low-key in the eyes of our fans that they treated it like any other away fixture. Would they ever again agree to pay £50 a ticket, when the thing is always live on the telly? Would they let the media turn it into a “be all and end all game”?
I rather think not.
I think our fans would be furious at any club trying to rip us off like that.
I think they would treat the idea of these games as “title deciders” and such like with utter contempt.
I also think they celebrate every one of them in glorious fashion, as recreations of the Day Rangers Died, and laugh at the pretenders in the other stands.
When we tell the next generation of fans that trips to that ground used to be fraught affairs which sweated over weeks in advance they will look at us if we were stark raving mad … and in their eyes we’ll have earned it.
Sevco’s current team has, if you believe the press, been expensively put together.
I’ve watched a number of their games this season, and you know what? I’m just not seeing it. Perhaps I’m not supposed to; the idea is to fool the paying customers in their own support, nobody else, but I frankly don’t know what it is they see, or think they do.
I don’t know if last season’s 5-1 game there was the watershed moment; maybe it felt that way and maybe it didn’t, but I know that when I watched the 2-1 game from earlier that season I had been waiting for Celtic to go in front from the moment Kenny Miller opened the scoring in the game. There was just no doubt in my mind that we would do it; after we settled into the rhythm of that game there was no going back and it was a fairly relaxed experience.
In my view, it’s going to take something pretty dramatic before I will feel differently, and I don’t mean a Sevco win. Sevco will win games against us eventually; I will hate it but I always hate it when we lose a match. It’s just an inevitable fact of football.
But St Johnstone and Aberdeen and Hearts and Hibs and other clubs in Scotland will also win games against us; I will never feel nervous about us going to their grounds, and I would still be pretty confident that defeats will be so few and far between that we’ll still win the league titles in those years.
That is something I don’t see changing for years to come.
No I mean, regular fear at visiting that ground … one that starts on the day the fixtures are published. One that starts with you scrutinising the matches list and thinking “Oh God, just three weeks into the campaign? Give us some time FFS …”
I can’t see it. I honestly think those days are done.
We will never fear Ibrox again.
And that’s a pretty nice feeling to be spending the week with.