The two sides meet in a, potentially, title-race altering derby at Ibrox on Sunday and the confrontation is one of those that can feel like a vortex. Into its orbit are sucked all developments in Scottish football … even those that on the surface would appear to be disassociated. So it was with the national team’s 2-2 friendly in Austria. For it is fair to say followers of the bitter rivals probably had one shared hope before Steve Clarke named his first XI for the Vienna assignment. It would have been that the June 2013 World Cup qualifying 1-0 win away to Croatia would be superseded as the most recent occasion that a selection, plus changes, failed to include any current employee of the Glasgow leviathans.
Scotland games, or certainly those with nothing riding on them, can seem to matter all-too-little to the Celtic and Rangers faithful. The 90 minutes for the national team in the Austrian capital only piqued interest across cybersphere in the most selfish sense; viewed through the prism of the monumental fixture that will be staged in Govan come the weekend. The intrigue was whether Clarke would ration game-time fairly between the representatives he had at his disposal from the Glasgow clubs. He didn’t, and therein were grumbles ensured from the blue side of the city.
Rangers fans often have bemoaned Ryan Jack’s limited game-time in national colours down the years. A player consistently lauded by Clarke, who was denied his services through injury for more than a year, the fact is that those of an Ibrox disposition wouldn’t have been thrilled seeing their metronomic midfielder essentially deputising for Celtic captain Callum McGregor five days before the pair will face-off in a game that could go a mighty long way to deciding the championship’s destination.
Yet Jack, who toiled to exert control, wasn’t overworked in being withdrawn after 58 minutes. McGregor, as with his club team-mate Greg Taylor, didn’t get stripped across the evening but that wasn’t favouritism on the part of Clarke. Instead it was owed to both having started in the 1-1 draw with Poland at Hampden last Thursday, although that’s a point likely to be lost on inveterate conspiracy theorists.