This weekend has been ten years in the making.
The longest close season we’ve ever known has ended, and hostilities are about to recommence.
Today was a pitiful side-show between the also-rans.
Tomorrow the champions will unfurl the flag and the campaign we’ve been waiting for will get underway, amidst gurning and gnashing of teeth elsewhere.
They could not stop us from getting here, neither on the pitch nor in their pitiful machinations off of it.
Believe me, they saw their biggest opportunity when the game was stopped in March and they tried to take full advantage of it because they knew they’d never get a better one. They have no idea how to prevent what’s coming, and it terrifies them.
Celtic is a trophy winning machine. Relentless in their pursuit of honours, this squad has swept all aside in their quest to show their dominance. Remember when Sevco fans used to taunt us with their nonsense about how they’d have won trebles if we weren’t in the league, blithely ignoring that Rangers weren’t doing that when they were going for their own nine, even in those years when we struggled even to get into European places?
There is something glorious about we waited for Sevco to be in the top flight before we started to really up the level of dominance. Since the hour Dave King’s band of EFL rejects joined us in the SPL we have won every trophy that was up for grabs … it’s as if we did it just to taunt them, to spite them, to rub their faces in how completely overmatched they are.
Sevco is not Rangers. If they were then perhaps you could say that these fans have the pain and suffering of the next ten or so months coming to them; actually, the truth is that they could have spared themselves all of this had they accepted that Rangers had died and that the responsibility for hanging onto their nine in a row was not their concern.
All of their agony is self-inflicted. It is joyous to consider it.
I got all nostalgic the other day when I was thinking about this. When Rangers was chasing their ninth title I was working in the Parks Department, dating a chick from Newton Mearns and trying to combine my football obsession with a political one. I was a campaign volunteer at Scottish Labour’s HQ at the time, and trying to juggle more balls than was rational.
Twenty some years later, the world is different.
We stopped the ten, Murray introduced EBT’s and started spending more money than any club in Scotland ever had. Labour won the 1997 election and in their first term did some pretty decent stuff, but the government drifted steadily rightward until, ten years before Rangers self-detonated, they dragged the country into an illegal war.
I was at university at the time, as Martin O’Neill’s team were racking up accolades and setting records. Rangers ramped up the spending, nearly bankrupting the club in the process during the first three years of Gordon Strachan’s tenure.
How bad was it? Well, it coincided with the financial crash of 2008. Had we won that fourth title there would have been no club called Rangers to buy when Craig Whyte flashed his pound coin in David Murray’s direction in 2011.
We handed them survival along with their final three titles.
And the changes just kept coming.
I met a primary school teacher and started dating her just as my politics drifted towards independence … and I was with her on the night Craig Whyte bought Rangers for £1, and we were still dating a year later when the club went into liquidation.
I was publishing magazines as well as blogs during the 2014 referendum result which was wrenching.
A year later I was with a new girl, the Tories had won a majority in England but Labour had been annihilated at the polls in Scotland as the country took revenge for the events of the previous year. From around that point on I never regarded ten in a row as anything other than inevitable.
Any chance Sevco had was squandered by McCoist’s lunatic spending.
And then we got Dave King.
Be thankful for Dave King until the day you die.
Because he teed all of this up with four of the worst managerial decision we are ever likely to see. Stuart McCall, Mark Warburton, Pedro Caixinha and Steven Gerrard all got the gig during King’s time at Ibrox and all were, and have been, an unmitigated disaster.
This is the year we’ve been waiting for since we stopped their ten twenty odd years ago.
This is the campaign we’ve been looking forward to, and in some ways the seeds of this campaign were sewn in that 12-month period after Murray saw his own ten snatched away by Fergus’ ingenious appointment and the talents of Wim Jansen in the dugout.
You know, I never considered Jansen a great manager.
Our form under him was patchy.
But he was a cool and calm and unpretentious figure, who understood that focussing on ourselves and not on them was the only way to stop their march to the record. Jansen put together a good team, but not a great one.
Yet that team played without fear, even when the pressure must have been on. I wrote earlier about how we lost the first two games of that league campaign, but we never panicked and instead Wim focussed the players on the idea of taking one game at a time.
For all the years between though we’ve had to listen to Ibrox chatter about how their nine is on a par with our own and ridiculous nonsense about whether their team of that era would have beaten the Lions. What a stupid thing to even debate.
The Lions in their prime would have taken five off that lot; many joked at the time that they’d still give them a game.
Rangers nine was built on bank debt. It wasn’t built on a tax fraud, they saved that for other tainted campaigns, but that club, running on its own power, would never have gotten over that line. What we’ve done, in contrast, is run a sustainable operation which didn’t depend on outside financing, cheating the tax man or racking up debts.
It makes me proud. When you see Celtic Park these days you get a real feeling of pride and satisfaction because you know deep down in your heart that we built it. Our money, our support, our faith that a day like this was going to come.
And now it has. It is here. All the sins of the past will be washed away.
All the years of struggle will find their moment of worth. Ten in a row is not the cure for everything bad in our lives, but it’s the panacea to the 90’s and every year the fans of Ibrox have strutted and preened.
Their modern vision of the club they believe they still follow was built in that era.
It was the greatest in the history of the first Ibrox operation.
How ironic that it’s now what drags them down, that over-expectancy, that egotism, that arrogance.
Tomorrow we begin an historic campaign which will confirm what we already know; if Scottish football once had two superpowers it now only has one. Everything we’ve seen in the last nine years has been a mere preparation for this.
To us, it’s the culmination of the years of glory.
Mere icing on the cake, but without which the cake wouldn’t be complete.
To Sevco it is the stuff of their nightmares.
It rolls towards them with the pitiless logic of a runaway train, and they have no idea how to make it stop.
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