Frank McAvennie: Celtic could set new Old Firm record

The get-out clause traditionally employed by pundits when asked to predict the outcome of a Celtic v Rangers clash was the hoary old chestnut about how the form book goes out of the window when it comes to this fixture.

Frank McAvennie: Confident. Picture: SNS
Frank McAvennie: Confident. Picture: SNS

Of course, it was never true in the first place (a cursory glance at the results enjoyed by the dominant club during each of their nine-in-a-row reigns gives the lie to it) and is even less true now.

There is no longer a fence for people to sit on, with Celtic
unbeaten in a club record 34 domestic games since the start of the current campaign, with three of their 33 victories coming against Rangers, who have lost both of their league matches under interim manager Graeme Murty.

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The last time the clubs met under those circumstances was on 1 February, 2015, when Kenny McDowall – who, like Murty, had no wish to be in charge – had been pushed into the interim role following the removal of Ally McCoist.

Celtic supporters turned up at Hampden anticipating a demolition derby but, 2-0 ahead by half-time, manager Ronny Deila allowed his players to run down the clock and coast their way to the final whistle.

Former Celtic and Scotland striker Frank McAvennie insists that Brendan Rodgers will drive his players on for the entire 90 minutes. And, Saturday’s victory over hapless Hamilton notwithstanding, McAvennie argues that the runaway Premiership leaders could match or even surpass the record winning margin in the fixture, established when Celtic won the 1957 League Cup final 7-1.

“There’s no way Celtic will do [what Deila did] under Brendan,” he said. “I remember that League Cup semi a few years back. In fairness to the players, the pitch was atrocious, and I could understand them maybe taking the foot off the pedal that day.

“But, if they are in the same position this time around and are a couple ahead at half-time, then I could see them going on and getting four or five.

“I don’t think it’s in Brendan’s make up to just shut up shop. You hear him talking about scoring goals and setting records. That’s the way it should be. If you’re winning games then you have to set your sights on something. They will be challenging themselves to be as good as they can be. He’ll be conscious of 7-1, of course he will, and he’ll be thinking: ‘Let’s see if we can beat them 7-0 or 8-0.

“I know supporters will get excited and talk about things like[that] but I don’t think the manager will be disrespectful to Rangers.

“He’ll just want to go and win the game. However, if they can get the game done then it might be case of thinking:
‘Let’s kick on and get a few’. 
Goals breed confidence and you can see it in guys like Moussa Dembele. If he scores another three Celtic will need to buy him a bigger house to keep all of these match balls he is getting.”

McAvennie made his debut in the fixture 30 years ago and cannot recall a time when one of the Glasgow divide enjoyed such supremacy.

“People are talking about Celtic winning by six or seven in this game,” he said. “Usually, when it comes to the special atmosphere of an Old Firm game, anything can happen but I can’t see Celtic slipping up under Brendan.

“He’s been the biggest factor in their transformation. He won’t let the occasion get to him. Some teams in the past, including ones I played in, thought that they just had to turn up to win the game but Brendan won’t allow that.

“You’ve got to win the battle first but this Celtic team can handle that.”