In the magnificent 1962 movie Fail Safe, a military strategist, played brilliantly by Walter Mattheu, ponders nuclear war at a party. His cold-blooded assessments provoke horror in those around him.
Finally, one asks him who would survive.
His answer is half-humour and half serious.
“Convicts and file clerks,” he tells the room of shocked listeners. “The worst convicts, in the deepest layers of solitary confinement and clerks in fire proof rooms surrounded by the best insulator there is; paper.”
His musings then turn to the inevitable battle for what’s left of the planet and the question as to who will win the final war. “The convicts will know violence,” he says. “But the file clerks will understand strategy.”
He never does give an answer to that ultimate question, instead leaving them with a beautiful intellectual puzzle.
I was thinking about that today in the context of another piece which you may read later, but I realised that this musing belongs in this article instead, this pre-game piece, this moment of calm before the storm.
Because two separate philosophies have always been evident at their club and ours but it has never been more pronounced than it is right now. If theirs is the “brute force” team of bulk and battle, ours is the team of intelligence and sophistication. They may know how to batter the opposition, but we know how to unlock a defence by craft and guile.
When these two teams take the field today that will be evident right from the word go. They will seek to bulldozer their way through us. We will seek to contain them and thread our way through. They may – in the parlance of Mattheu’s character – know violence but we know strategy and I’m fairly certain that he knew strategy would likely come out on top.
We are, more than ever, watching two sides here who are miles apart in outlook, in quality, in management styles, in the boardroom and amongst the support. Don’t get me wrong, these clubs were always going to be on divergent paths, but I have never seen this this acute, this obvious, this polar opposite in every way.
Even in the dugout, where most managers of the modern era are very similar in tone and outlook and expression we have men who could not be further apart temperamentally. Ange is forensic, intelligent, humorous and focussed. The Mooch is sarcastic, bitter, angry and forever looking to score points against others.
The captains might as well come from different planets as well.
When Callum talks he does so with respect for the other clubs and he never thinks more than one game ahead. When Tavernier talks it’s all about how they expect to beat everyone and how their only focus is really on Celtic anyway.
He never gives credit to the opposition; everything is about how the world hasn’t seen the best of them yet … there is no hint that he understands that other teams have agency here too and that this one might just be a better one than they are.
I wrote earlier in the week about the fans; it doesn’t need pointing out that we are entirely different from theirs, and whilst I believe that a much bigger, deeper article about this cultural divergence is needed, and I’ll get to it, I think it’s obvious that this is a clash of more than just two opposing football teams.
And the thing is, we are just better in every department.
We have every right to be confident without being arrogant.
We have every right to expect a good day today.