An unwanted Glasgow derby record is held by Alan Thompson. The former Celtic midfielder and coach is the only player in the history of the fixture to be sent off three times. A dismissal of a different kind would be on the cards were Premiership Celtic to lose against lower league Rangers when the pair scrap it out in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden on 17 April.
Ronny Deila is presented as a dead-man walking because of Celtic’s clear regression in his second season, which has allowed Aberdeen to push the club for the title on the back of more Champions League qualifying misery. Thompson is convinced the Norwegian would go if Rangers win next month.
“I would definitely say so,” agreed Thompson. “The manager is under enough pressure as it is due to the league situation. If he is still here and he doesn’t win that game then that must be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It would be unimaginable that they lose that game.”
If Deila isn’t around next season for whatever reason, an overhaul of a misshapen looking squad that is crammed with a busload of midfielders would ensue. But any notion that it would lead to a thinning of the number of ‘project’ players is to misunderstand the workings of Celtic according to Thompson, first-team coach under Neil Lennon from 2010 until his sacking in 2012. The policy of developing young talent and selling it on for profit will continue, he believes.
“If the manager does go, the new man will address the player situation. He would have to look at the squad and see who is past their sell-by date, who needs a fresh start, how many new players he wants to bring in. Because of the financial situation the youth thing has been something Celtic, and Rangers, have been trying to do for 20 years. In terms of projects for Ronny Deila I don’t think it has much to do with him. It has already been in place for a while. I don’t think it is part of his remit really. His game is to win trophies and do well in Europe. And he hasn’t particularly done that up to now.”
The pursuit of the trophies that have eluded Deila both ended with semi-final defeats at Hampden – against Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish Cup last year and Ross County in the League Cup last month – where Celtic had a man sent-off. In all three of the games against Rangers that Thompson saw red Celtic lost. He was banished from the pitch early in his derby debut that ended with Martin O’Neill’s team being on the end of 5-1 drubbing at Ibrox in November 2000. Four years later he was sent off for squaring up to Peter Lovenkrands after the Dane feigned having been head-butted in the course of a 2-0 home win for Rangers. The following August Thompson was again given a straight red as Gordon Strachan lost his first derby 3-1.
“The fact we didn’t win the three games just shows you that if anyone loses their discipline there’s a good chance you are not winning. It’s something they’ll have to address next month and the referee has got to be sensible as well.
“The Lovenkrands one was probably the one that I would disagree with out of my three red cards. He apologised to me for it when he hooked up at Newcastle. ‘Too late, ya….’ I can’t change that now. Discipline will play a massive part on the day in the semi-final, without a doubt. It goes without saying that in any Old Firm fixture people will try to get someone wound up. Some people bite, some don’t. I bit and the rest is history.”
Yet, the other side of Thompson’s derby history is his ability to find the net. His tally of seven goals in the fixture matches the return of both John Hartson and Chris Sutton.
“It is not a bad record considering I was a wing back. I think it’s time I let Sutton and Hartson know about that record. They keep telling me what good players they were. You just get a buzz when you score. I was quite lucky the ones I did, we didn’t lose. It is always a good feeling if you score and get a result.”