Although its origins are not in the Orient, the phrase “may you live in interesting times” is most often, and mistakenly, referred to as “the Chinese curse.”
It simply means that the victim should not have peace or happiness or calm but a life of turmoil and chaos. I’d like to think that if our club ever sent a Xmas card to Ibrox that’s all it would say on it.
Both clubs have lived in “interesting times” lately. And almost all of the tribulations that have befallen them have been self-inflicted. It is hard to remember when they last struck a genuine blow that landed on us or when we last struck one on them. You can recall, much more freely, stupid and damaging acts of self-harm.
I know that relations between the clubs have never been at such a low ebb.
It seems incredible to me that at the point of the highest tensions that both club agreed, without hashing out all the issues it might cause, to take part in the game in Australia.
The organisers tell us now that the game was being organised in advance of Ange’s hiring. Which means that Celtic was originally not going to have that particular piece of camouflage. Both our club and the organisers got lucky in more ways than one.
Imagine if our club had tried to sell that without their charismatic and brilliant front-man. The backlash would have been enormous, and easily on a par with that which rocked the club across the city. It’s almost as if our directors went looking for a confrontation with the fans … it should be too absurd to believe, but it seems as if it’s true.
We now know that part of their “strategy” to avoid that backlash would have been to refuse, point blank refuse, to refer to it as an “Old Firm” game. And this is where I am honestly agog at how this must have been handled behind the scenes; neither side sat down with the other to work these things out, because the clubs don’t talk right now.
So they were blindsided by a detail which should have been as obvious to them as it was to our board. But our board should have been equally attuned to the enormous consequences of that for them. The whole value of the game to them was being able to trade on the “Old Firm” slogan and all the marketing upside of it. And so they felt we screwed them.
Celtic’s veto makes it impossible to even contemplate a future friendly on the basis Ibrox would have wanted. Ibrox’s demand is an impossible one for Celtic to satisfy. The “Old Firm” concept should have been dead two decades ago. Celtic hammered the nails into the coffin at last, although I do not believe they did so willingly; indeed, there was talk of trying to arrange a “derby abroad” fixture each and every year … that won’t be happening now.
But it’s Ibrox which has done the real – and permanent – damage and this is why I smile. Because their conduct throughout this could not have been more suicidally stupid. They were the real winners in any scenario which sought to monetise the Glasgow derby and it’s their self-destructive behaviour and small-minded bitchery which puts the coffin in the ground.
Frankly, if they could have handled this in a more catastrophic fashion I fail to see how. Every single thing that they have done in the course of this has been incredibly dumb. From the way they seemed defensive and ashamed to the cancellation of the event it was mad. But the real killer blow was struck at the weekend, and talk about shooting yourself in the foot.
Their “Old Firm” stunt, which was designed to embarrass or annoy us – I’m not sure which as it would have accomplished neither – has actually done what I would hitherto have believed to be absolutely impossible; it has acted like a hard slap to the face of their own supporters, bringing them finally into the reality of the broken, one sided nature of this so-called relationship.
It has let them see how pathetic they have looked for years, hanging onto the coattails of this and refusing to let go.
And it has changed perceptions over there utterly.
For the first time, opposition to the use of the phrase is now probably a majority view on their forums and on social media, which is where the change in our own stance on this began and accelerated.
Amongst a lot of their most poisonous members, they want to dress this up as a principled rejection based on their dark obsession … but most of them realise that their club’s pitiful PR disaster at the weekend makes them look ridiculous.
More importantly, for the first time there is an acceptance that we have rejected them, that we want nothing to do with them, and that and their clinging on has made them look weak and desperate. And they want their club to acknowledge that our rejection is a permanent state of affairs and something they need to accept and deal with.
Both sets of supporters are sick, fed up with the whole idea and whereas our frustration and anger is historic and deep and rooted not only in the liquidation of Rangers but in issues way before that, their own virulent opposition and hatred of the concept is new and fundamentally alters the landscape in a way that is probably decisive.
It has taken years longer than it ought to have, it has happened in a way that none of us would have predicted. But the “Old Firm” has been read the last rights, although that was the last thing either Celtic or the club from Ibrox wanted or expected to happen.
Oh how good the idea must have looked to the bean-counters who think of nothing else, who never considered the fans, and particularly at Celtic who paid no heed to the reputational damage that would have been done had Sunday “unique atmosphere” been covered by a foreign media who has never been exposed to its toxicity before.
In many ways, the appalling behaviour of the home support is a fitting epitaph to the whole era, to the whole concept, to the very idea of it … how ironic that they chose a day when every ugly element of it was on full display to advertise it to the world and deliver the final insult to their own supporters.
“This is the Old Firm” those pitch-side advertising boards screamed.
What they really mean though is “This was the Old Firm” and Sunday was the funeral.
We definitely live in interesting times.