Saturday evening, 9pm local time, and life is good. Celtic are 2-1 down to Hibs with 12 minutes to go, I’m already a bit drunk, and I am heading out for more, sans Mrs Williamson, who is sleeping off an afternoon session. If all goes to plan, the following evening will be spent celebrating both my Sunday league team’s promotion – we are playing the second-bottom team and need a simple win to seal second place in the division – and a Rangers league victory – assuming they defeat the dirty Jambos (no offence intended to dirty Jambos out there).
24 hours later, and where did it all go wrong? I am stone-cold sober and “aff the bevvy” thanks to too much the night before, we have only managed to steal a draw with our relegated opposition (and that thanks to an injury-time equaliser), and the Rangers victory over Hearts is irrelevant, at least as far as me celebrating goes, because Celtic recovered with two goals in the last ten minutes to beat the Hibees and keep the league race alive for another seven days.
To top it off, the HK Rangers Supporters Club night arranged with John “Bomber” Brown and Mark “Attila” Hateley had that day been cancelled due to the volcano in Iceland grounding most European air traffic, including the plane carrying the Rangers Legends to the Orient.
But such is life, and I now look forward to next weekend, where a victory for my Sunday league team will seal promotion, and a victory for Rangers will seal the Scottish league title. If all the fun is in the anticipation, then the suspense is only a good thing.
Rangers can win the league without kicking a ball this weekend if Celtic fail to take maximum points at Tannadice, which is not an easy place to visit. Thus I face a quandary: if my Sunday team win promotion, we’ll be celebrating in our home bar when Celtic are playing. But our home bar is also the home of the HK Rangers Supporters Club, and they will be screening the Celtic game for a few Rangers fans hoping to start celebrating early.
I won’t want to join them, because of my attitude to Celtic games – I never want to watch them unless they are playing Rangers. Not for religious reasons, I hope you understand – I just don’t want to watch them unless it’s absolutely necessary. The only exception is if it’s a highlights reel and I already know they’ve lost. Then I will enjoy the zoom into the stand for the obligatory “greetin’ wean” shot which TV sports directors these days seem to love. Yes, it’s mean, but I’m not a nice person.
I don’t think I was always this way – I remember watching the Celtic-Airdrie cup final in 1995, and my only concession to my Rangerhood was leaving the bar while the trophy was presented to the winning (Celtic) team. And my attitude has caused me to miss many great Rangers moments over the years, such as Raith Rovers beating Celtic, Inverness Caley beating Celtic, Porto beating Celtic in injury time, and most recently, Ross County beating Celtic.
Most of my fellow Rangers fans don’t feel the same way. They often comment on the Celtic game they watched the previous day, or during the week. Maybe they don’t have better things to do?
My EPL-supporting Sassenach friends can maybe understand my position – they congratulate me as often on Celtic losing as Rangers winning. I tell them that it’s one of the bonuses of being an Old Firm fan – you get twice the joy every week (though also twice the pain – the emotion is doubled – maybe that’s why Old Firm games are still so intense). And yes, I enjoy Celtic losing, but no, not more than Rangers winning. Not ever.
What about other teams? Do you Jambos get happy when the Hibees fail? Almost certainly, yes, and the same in reverse. And I know Killie fans get a kick out of Ayr getting beat, but do you really watch for their score at the weekend, or indeed every time they play? Does one side of Sandeman Street get a kick out of the other losing? Is it the same for you?
Or is it just part of being a football fan? Those same EPL-supporting friends don’t seem to feel the same way. Most of them can quite objectively watch games with third parties involved, and any professed rivalries are generally mild (Arsenal-Spurs? Don’t make me laugh). And I was put to shame by a Vietnamese tour guide recently. We were watching a grainy Chelsea-Man U game on a boat in Halong Bay, and when I asked him if he supported Manchester United, he patiently explained no, he supported Barcelona, because they played the best football.
When he then went on to explain that he had wanted Arsenal-Barca to meet in the Champions League final because those two teams play the most beautiful football, I was so ashamed I wanted to cry.