CELTIC supporters who took out a full page newspaper advert to brand Rangers a new club ahead of this weekend’s Old Firm showdown have been compared to psychopaths by Kenny Dalglish.
A group of fans paid £3,000 for the ad, in which they criticised what they claim is “club continuation fiction” in the wake of the financial collapse of Rangers and oldco liquidation in 2012.
It sparked a response from several former Rangers players who accused those behind it of provoking tensions ahead of the League Cup semi-final at Hampden on Sunday.
Now former Celtic player and manager Dalglish has expressed his bewilderment at the motivation of those who placed the ad and has made it clear he regards Rangers as the same club as the one he faced during his career.
Dalglish said: “Rangers is an iconic name of Scottish football, as is Celtic. If people want to do that in an advert, you would need to ask them why.
“It’s like asking me why a psychopath does what he does. I don’t know. I wouldn’t have an answer for what they’ve done. It’s Rangers. If you are a Celtic fan, it’s still Rangers isn’t it?
“It doesn’t matter that Rangers have been through the mire for three years. You are still playing against Rangers on Sunday – you can’t take that away.
“Would victory mean less to Celtic fans than before? I would say no, but I don’t know what’s in their minds. They have waited three years for an Old Firm game – why would it mean any less?
“By the way, it won’t be devalued either. In years to come, whether Celtic beat Rangers or Rangers beat Celtic, the record books will say it was the League Cup semi-final in 2015. It won’t say ‘by the way, Rangers struggled for three years and they were in the Championship’. It will still say the score.
“I don’t know if it will mean more because it’s the first one for three years. I don’t know what it would mean to anyone else, but surely it can’t be diluted because you’ve not had it for a few years. You would think that it would only be increased.”
Despite the obvious disparity between the teams, as Rangers continue to experience problems off the field while also struggling in the Championship promotion race, Dalglish is not convinced the tie will be as one-sided as many expect.
But he also dismissed suggestions that all the pressure is on Celtic manager Ronny Deila and his players because of those widespread assumptions of victory for the Scottish champions.
“Of course there is pressure on Rangers,” said Dalglish. “If you were manager of Rangers, and your team was going out to play an Old Firm game, do you not think there’s any pressure? I wouldn’t want to go out on the pitch if I thought that.
“Of course there’s pressure. You’re going out to represent your club in the biggest game they have.
“I don’t go along with the idea the so-called underdogs in any game have nothing to lose. You only have nothing to lose if you don’t care. As long as you take pride in yourself, you have something to lose. • Celtic-Rangers cup clash ‘will fly past’ - Hateley
There’s never been a gulf like this between the clubs for any of the previous games between them since both of them were formed. There may not have been bookmakers around back then to judge the odds, but there’s certainly never been this gulf before.
“But why should Celtic win comfortably? Because of that gulf, because they are Premiership leaders and Rangers are second in the Championship? But if you look at the weekend results in the FA Cup down in England, you get a wee bit of a shock.
“That may give Rangers a bit of encouragement but it may also send out a message to Celtic that it doesn’t matter what your standing is, on any particular day it’s about what happens. That’s a good message for both clubs.”
Dalglish added: “It’s a massive game, everybody knows what it stands for. Even if it’s your first venture into one, you soon realise what it means. Everybody who has played football knows the importance of a derby match, and the one you’re involved in is the most important.
“There is apprehension, there are nerves. But everybody feels it. I’d also say if you’re not nervous or apprehensive then there is something wrong with you.
“Victory is the most important thing for either side. It doesn’t matter how many you win by and it doesn’t even matter how. If you are lucky, then so be it. But the victory is the most important thing.”
Dalglish made 27 Old Firm appearances for Celtic, scoring seven goals, but doesn’t hesitate for a second when asked to pick out his most memorable experience of the fixture. “It was my first one,” he smiled, recalling the League Cup tie between the teams at Ibrox in August 1971 when, at the age of 20, he was literally placed on the spot by Celtic captain Billy McNeill.
“We were 1-0 up and got a penalty which Billy asked me to take,” added Dalglish. “I still get nervous now when I think about it. Fortunately, I knew which way Peter McCloy usually went at penalties. I got it right and we won 2-0.
“If you are born in Glasgow, you know the magnitude of the game and what it means to win it. That tells you it doesn’t matter what state either club is in, or how long it’s been since they played each other. So that feeling will not be diluted or devalued on Sunday. Both sets of fans have really missed the Old Firm games.”
l Kenny Dalglish was speaking at the launch of 666BET.com’s special odds for Sunday’s League Cup semi-final between Celtic and Rangers.
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