HIGH-PROFILE football between Rangers and Celtic will return tonight a year to the day since their last SPL encounter when the clubs compete for silverware in the final of the Glasgow Cup.
After a season of no senior meetings, several thousand fans are expected to renew old rivalries at Partick Thistle’s Firhill as the Old Firm’s young firm meet at under-17 level.
The competition became a round robin youth event in 2007 with the top two from a group of five, that includes the youth sides of Queen’s Park, Partick Thistle and Clyde, making the final.
Rangers are the holders after a 4-2 penalty kick success last season at Ibrox following a 1-1 draw and the Murray Park youngsters topped this season’s table after winning six games and drawing 2-2 with the Parkhead babes.
Celtic’s draw against Queen’s Park was the difference as they won their five other games with a second blue and green meeting not being held when it became apparent that it would have no effect on tonight’s participants.
Both clubs agree that the meeting is all about developing players with Rangers highlighting the role that several of last season finalists had in their Third Division triumph.
Rangers coach Billy Kirkwood said: “Some of the players that won last year have gone on to play a part in winning the Third Division. Fraser Aird has been about the first team for most of the season whereas Daniel Stoney and Tom Walsh made their first-team debuts recently.
“Danny and Tom are still young enough to play in this final.”
Kirkwood added: “It was a terrific night last year and it is a great occasion to help players develop. In total ten players from our last three Glasgow Cup final squads have featured for the first team in the Third Division.”
“Playing against Celtic in front of a big crowd can only help a player progress. We hope that the players tonight can keep hold of the cup and then can go on and join the six payers that have played in Glasgow Cup finals.
“Those six also played in Europe and picked up League and Cup winners’ medals.”
The development ethos is the same in the green half of the city with Celtic’s under-17 coach Tommy McIntyre saying: “In recent seasons a number of our young Academy players have played in the Glasgow Cup final and gone on to represent the Celtic first team. This is the aim of all the players within our youth teams and a game like this helps them get there.”