If you’re reading this and you are already shaking your head then this one is for you and you are probably well aware of why you’re reading it, which is to say you are aware of the reasons I’ve written it in the first place. Shake your head all you want; you know why some of us are pissed at you. Aside from what I can only surmise is your attention seeking insistence on making the rest of us angry, you’re also pushing a lie.
Do you know you are pushing a lie? I have no idea.
Maybe you’re as deluded as those Sevco fans who think Celtic is on the cusp of a crisis which will wipe away every single thing that makes us great. They do believe this of course, like it was not even up for debate. To them, that stuff is fact. It just hasn’t happened yet. Bonkers.
Whether you know you’re pushing a lie or not is not my concern.
My concern is for the facts and the historical record and the story that will be told therein. And the reason so many of us get so steamed up over this is we’re not prepared to leave that record with lies splattered all over the page. It’s just not happening. It’s just not on.
Way before Rangers died, Celtic itself stopped using the term “Old Firm.” Most fans have loathed it for years, tying us, as it does, to a football match built around naked hate. That was the USP – the unique selling point – of the fixture abroad; the most vicious, hate filled rivalry in the sport. And that was at a time when players of genuine quality played for both clubs. There was no need to hype the game on that basis; it was an abhorrent thing to do.
That tag did two other things; first, it gave both clubs a profile that neither deserved and second it created the fiction that both clubs were similar; the old “two heads of the same coin” myth was thus born. The problem was, that bore no resemblance to reality.
But because it was so prevalent it limited the marketability of Celtic as it raised that of Rangers. Because whilst we were striving to be a modern, forward thinking, institution they were becoming ever more insular and narrow. Britishness Days started under Murray, don’t forget.
Rangers made a deliberate decision to embrace its core support and all they wanted to see. Orange shirts were just one manifestation of it. They made cynical, shameful, marketing decisions like that time and time again. And it marginalised them. It associated them with the lunatic fringe of Ulster Loyalism, the far right and the low-level latent sectarianism which lies dormant at the heart of Scottish society. On their own they couldn’t have marketed any of it.
But as part of the “world’s most vicious football rivalry” they had something.
As part of that so-called rivalry our own commercial potential was subdued. Why do you think we moved so far ahead of them, in terms of sponsorship and such like before the liquidation moment came? We made a clean break. We negotiated a separate shirt deal. We made it clear that we were a club that stood on its own two feet.
We wanted nothing to do with any of it.
And that served us well. It opened up the whole world for us. It gave us new opportunities to explore. The concept of The Celtic Family was not just a marketing tool, it was a way of looking at the world of football and our place in it in a different way.
The Celtic Family concept is our way of saying, “this is all we need. This is what defines us. This is who we are.” We no longer wanted to be thought of as one half of a bigoted whole. We carved an individual identity, which was always there but which was stifled.
It was the best thing we ever did as a club.
Then 2012 came, and the whole issue should have been made irrelevant and put beyond debate. How could the “Old Firm” exist, even in the minds of desperate hangers on, when one half of the rivalry had circled the drain and then swirled down the tubes?
The problem was, without us they had nothing.
Without a connection to something greater than themselves, Sevco was a worthless bundle of assets, SFA license and league place or not. That’s when the Survival Lie was birthed, the idea that Rangers had somehow crawled out of the grave, that liquidation hadn’t happened at all.
That concept was created because they needed us and only the name Rangers gave them the connection. Forget all this bullshit about the history and the continuation of the club … that’s not what mattered to them. As Celtic fans will always see an asterisk next to Rangers’ tainted titles, their fans would have held onto the history just as feverishly.
If you regard a football club’s history as partly an emotional thing, you’ll understand me. If not, think on it like this; imagine those tainted titles had been taken from them and given to us. Would that have changed your memories of Black Sunday?
Of course it wouldn’t.
Look, if they want to believe in the continuation of the club and the history and all that nonsense then I say let them do so. But the historical record should not give the tiniest damn for what they want to believe. It should reflect only the facts, and the facts are simple and they are beyond dispute except for those with an interest in maintaining the lie.
Rangers is dead. Sevco is not the same club.
Sevco only maintains the fiction by focussing on this alleged tie to our club.
Every single time a Celtic fan uses the term “Old Firm” you are buying into a lie that seeks to drag us down. We do not benefit, even a little, from being connected to the basket case club on the other side of town. It elevates them whilst conferring no advantage to us at all.
That, on its own, should be enough to convince most people to ditch the phrase forever but I’ve always thought there was a far more important reason. That phrases gives legitimacy not only to the Survival Lie but to the Victim Lie as well, and the Victim Lie is the most toxic idea ever foisted on football on this island.
If you believe, or if you claim to believe, that Sevco and Rangers are the same club then you are forced to confront the cold fact that the SPL had no right to deny them membership and that the SFL clubs had no right to make them start at the bottom.
There is nothing in the rulebook that would justify making a club start in the bottom tier because of debts. If you accept the Survival Lie then you accept the Victim Lie by default; you are saying that the people who really suffered in all this were those connected to Rangers, including their fans. And that, folks, many of us are not going to stand for.
People are allowed to live in whatever reality they choose for themselves. But the rest of us should not be forced to live in it too. If you heard Alex Rae on the radio the other night, it was pitiful that he should be so angry over someone simply stating the facts.
Listen, the caller to that show was not in any way wrong in what he said and had Rae’s argument been that it was wrong for the caller to trample all over his version of reality I might have agreed with him; that’s just bad manners. But that wasn’t Rae’s argument at all; Rae was trying to force his reality on the rest of us and that’s where we all ought to draw the line.
I have no problem with people who believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden.
But I will not allow the “existence” of the fairies to dictate how often I cut the grass. We do not restructure our world to fit other people’s daft beliefs and fantasies. In any other situation you would tell those people to keep their daydreams where they could not interfere with real life.
The Survival Lie is dangerous to Scottish football, and the Victim Lie even more so.
We live in a world of fake news and fake facts; the least we can do is to police our own little corner of it properly, to say here and in this place that we will not allow it, that truth should have its day. Every time I hear the words Old Firm I am reminded of the number who would rather live in shit than pick up a shovel. Most Celtic fans wanted nothing to do with that hated term back when it still had some grounding in the football world post 2012.
There is no excuse for persisting with it in the aftermath of Craig Whyte’s one-man mission of mayhem. It is still the most fun anyone ever had with £1. And it closed the book, once and for all, on the rivalry based on hate upon which Rangers so long depended.