Never a Dull Old FirmBy: rafa | January 2nd, 2011
No matter when Rangers and Celtic meet, there will always be something to talk about. This Sunday’s Old Firm is no different. On Sunday these Old Firm Friends will be meeting on the 40th Anniversary of the 1971 Ibrox Disaster.
A great number in the footballing community are well read and knowledgeable on the more infamous Hillsborough Disaster involving the Liverpool FC supporters in the Sheffield Wednesday stand. The Ibrox Disaster occurred a whole 18 years before and often times gets glossed over. Whether it’s because the event happened in Scotland, not England, or whether it is because only 66 people lost their lives instead of the total 96 at Hillsborough, we will never know. Fact of the matter is that the tragic events that occurred at Stairway 13 on January 2nd, 1971 should have been a clear warning to clubs and countries around the world that a change in ground safety, control, organization and construction needed to happen. It was an accident waiting to happen, yet an accident ignored and swept under the rug until the discussion was brought back up 18 years later on the darkest day in footballing history.
This Sunday, Rangers plan on a couple of different commemorative ceremonies to remember and honor those lost in the disaster. On top of a minute of silence before the kick off, the two club captains from Rangers and Celtic on that fateful Old Firm match in 1971 will lead out their respective teams again. (Yes, the Greatest Ranger of All Time, John Greig returns)
Right off the bat, this match has a tremendously emotional charge to the atmosphere. Now throw in the fact that Celtic need to take three points from this match to really try and make a case for the title this season, while Rangers want to come away with a home win to kick off the new year with a comfortable lead and TWO GAMES in hand on Celtic. With the Europa League continuing (hopefully) to take Rangers attention away from the league and a fixture pile up from all the crap weather in the UK, Walter’s men will have a real test if they want to make it three league titles in a row.
The good thing is this: Rangers supporters agree that we are winning while not playing our best football. I would say that you saw a small sample, or glimpse of what Rangers can truly put together on the field when they entertained Valencia at Ibrox, giving them a point when we should have taken all three. Maurice Edu having such a brilliant match that he not only put in a great header for his side, but one for the other side as well. (tough luck dude)
Hoops made the Ljungberg move final and he is fit to play in Sunday’s match. Freddie says, “I feel like I am 25 again!”. With Celtic’s captain Scott Brown suspended for the red card he received at the end of the Motherwell match, I’d almost guarantee match time for Freddie.
The big question is whether or not the Swedish midfielder will be of any impact on a squad of Celtic players with tons of individual talent… key word being individual. “Freddie Ljungberg is a good player – there is no doubt about that – but my concern would be Celtic’s team overall as much as any individual,” said the Rangers manager.
Kyle Lafferty will be fit for the match, but I doubt he will get the start. Having not seen match play for a while, it’d be a tough task to be thrown into such an important game. Plus, Kenny Miller should be well rested and ready to bag some goals against his former employer. The guy to watch for me will be Vladamir Weiss, who continues to impress me more and more.
Not only does Vlad have my vote, but he seems to have the confidence of Mr. Smith who continues to put his faith in him. Being on loan from Manchester City could have put the young player in an awkward situation, but instead he has risen to the challenge and cleared every obstacle thus far this season. It’s only a matter of how Rangers can keep the strong Slovakian midfielder.
My line up for Rangers is looking like a festive Xmas tree, 5-4-1. You can expect Allan McGregor in goal. Steadfast David Weir, Steven Whittaker, Sasa Papac and Madjid Bougherra should anchor the back line with Richard Foster possibly making the fifth defender. Walter seemed really pleased with slotting in Weiss directly behind Kenny Miller who plays up top alone. Steven Naismith is “doubtful” for the match against Celtic, but Mr. Smith is giving him right up until the match to prove he is fit. Don’t be surprised if Lafferty and Beattie get some match time.
My prediction for the match, 2-0 to the ‘Gers. We will discuss the match further on show Monday. And you can expect my two pence on the match late Monday.