RODDY FORSYTH is the Scottish football correspondent for BBC Radio Sport (England) and the Daily Telegraph (England) in Glasgow.
Possibly nowhere in the world is there a rivalry which can surpass that of Celtic and Rangers. There are local or national feuds which come close and, from time to time, exceed the collision of blue and green in Glasgow, but Celtic-Rangers is the oldest and the most durable.
Rangers were by no means the principal club in Scotland during their early years; that distinction belonged to Queen's Park, who were so superior that Scotland sometimes called upon all or most of their players for games against England, Ireland and Wales. Queen's Park also established the passing game in football, displacing the dribbling style of the English pioneers.
But in 1888 the Scottish Football League was formed and the game became professional in Scotland. Queen's Park remained amateur and began to lose status and influence. The year before Celtic were founded by a Marist Brother known as Walfrid, with the main object of raising money for the poor of the east end of Glasgow. The club had deep roots amongst the immigrant Irish community from the start and retains a sizeable support in Ireland, north and south to this day. Celtic played their first game at Celtic Park (sometimes known as Parkhead) on 28 May 1888 and beat Rangers 5-2.
Rangers were the obvious choice. They played on the west side of Glasgow, Celtic the east. Rangers had been founded by Highland Presbyterians and drew much of their support from the Protestant community, Celtic from the growing Irish and Scottish Catholic population. So the rivalry was cultural and religious but it remained friendly for the better part of 30 years.
Many sporting cartoons commented on the money-making capacity of the two clubs, and in 1909 money was at the root of a riot when the pair met in a Scottish Cup Final replay at Hampden Park. But the factions were not fighting each other. The result was again a draw but there was no extra time and this time the 61,000 crowd refused to move. The word spread that the game had been fixed to generate a lucrative third game and the two supports united to storm the pitch, fight the police and set fire to the payboxes. There was no third game and the cup was withheld.
Running battles in Glasgow
After the First World War ended, the Irish war of Independence broke out and animosity between Celtic and Rangers supporters became deep rooted, especially when the mainly Catholic south of Ireland became independent in 1921 and the small, largely Protestant north remained in the United Kingdom.
The clubs dominated Scottish football and then became forces in the wider world. Rangers reached the final of the European Cup Winners' Cup three times between 1961 and 1972, beating Dynamo Moscow in Barcelona on the third occasion. Celtic went one better and became the first British club to win the European Champion Clubs' Cup, overcoming Inter Milan 2-1 in Lisbon in 1967 under their legendary manager, Jock Stein. Three years later Celtic set a European Champion Clubs' Cup crowd record of 136,505 when they beat Leeds United, champions of England, at Hampden Park. However, they lost the final itself to Feyenoord in Milan.
In 1986 there was a revolutionary development when Rangers appointed the former Liverpool and Scotland midfielder, Graeme Souness, as player manager. He immediately exploded the restrictive Scottish wage structure and began to import outsiders. Most significantly, backed by a new chairman, David Murray, he signed Maurice Johnston, a Catholic Scotland striker who had previously played for Celtic.
Rangers so wrongfooted Celtic at this time that for the next twelve years they won every championship but one, which Celtic took in 1998. The pendulum has begun to swing back, though, as Celtic have revived under the former Nottingham Forest and Northern Ireland winger, Martin O'Neill.
19 goals in four games
In the two back-to-back games four players were shown the red card by the referee. There was bound to be an increase in the number of foreign players sent off in the derbies, simply because they now outnumber the Scots. On the other hand, these players arrive with only the vaguest knowledge - if any - of the background to this division, yet in derby after derby newcomers are overwhelmed by the atmosphere and reason flies out the window.