Rat in the Skull…
I wrote some time ago about Ron Hutchinson’s stark and uncompromising play ‘Rat in the Skull’. It is set in a 1980s Police Station where an older RUC officer brutally interrogates a young IRA volunteer. It encapsulates the tragedy of Irish history: The two characters demonstrate an utter contempt for each other without realizing that they are both, in their own ways, martyrs to the same sad history.
Anyone who logs into a Celtic website or indeed a website of the club formerly known as Rangers (IL) could be forgiven for assuming that they detect a similar, if less tragic, symbiotic relationship between the two clubs. So much of their histories are seemingly intertwined, so many of their triumphs are matched by the simultaneous depression at their rivals. Indeed, the late Gore Vidal might have had some of the followers of these two clubs in mind when he said…’It is not enough that I succeed, others must fail.’’ A fair percentage of both clubs followers spend as much time reading and commenting on the events at their rivals as they do on their own club’s fortunes. The death of Rangers has given Celtic fans a once in a lifetime opportunity to make sure the Newco followers realise that they lost the long war. No matter what happens now Celtic have an unbroken history while their great rivals don’t as they were liquidated in debt and disgrace. Any feeble and unconvincing attempts by sections of the media to claim liquidation wasn’t the end only serves to motivate fans of many Scottish clubs to continue to prove that the oldco did indeed die. In Scots Law there is no difference between the Company and the Club, they are one and the same. Imagine if you will that the calamity which befell Rangers FC last year had happened to Celtic. Do you suppose we’d get away with claiming the ‘holding company’ died and not the club? Not a chance. This unrelenting scrutiny is perhaps symptomatic of the 2 horse race that Scottish Football had become. It is now 28 years since a team outside the Big Two have won the SPL title. (Aberdeen in 1985) No one under 35 will remember Fergie’s excellent team.
My message in this blog is simple. Let’s stop measuring Celtic against any other club. Let’s talk about our club and its wonderful history and only mention other clubs in relation to how they affect Celtic. By all means remind the footballing public that we won't swallow the tosh that the oldco didn't die because it surely did. The media can spin it all they want but we know the truth. The death of Rangers is an opportunity to reset the compass and plot a course which doesn’t involve any mention of Ibrox or any unhealthy obsession with how the newco is doing. Let’s forget them, let them shout and sing about hollow victories over fourth rate virtually amateur Scottish teams. Let them rot in the wilderness for a few years to temper their arrogance. The simple truth is we don’t need them. Everything they were grew out of opposition and hatred of everything that Celtic stand for. They were just another medium sized Scottish Club until they figured out that they could grow richer and fatter on the back of prejudice and hatred. Their sectarian signing policy alone broke every moral code in sport as the SFA and sporting media looked the other way and said nothing. In the end Rangers bloated into the grotesque and arrogant beast which so spectacularly imploded under the weight of their own hubris in the spring of 2012. They measured every success they have ever achieved against our failure. They festered, hated and despaired when Celtic were on top. One can even trace their eventual collapse back to a sunny afternoon in Lisbon when the Lions became the greatest team in Europe. Their ‘they put down a fiver, we’ll put down a tenner’ arrogance was born out of trying to emulate Stein’s greatest achievement. It ate away at their soul that the immigrants, the poor relations had risen to greatness where they had failed so often. Tens of millions were spent trying to conquer Europe and they didn’t even come close. All they achieved was vast debt and eventual liquidation.
Just remember this simple fact: If Rangers never existed, Celtic would be pretty much the same club they are today. Without Celtic, Rangers would have been nothing because all they were grew out of opposition to Celtic. Every yardstick they used to measure their success is a comparison to us. That is deeply unhealthy and we must never sink to that level. We are better than that, we are better than the so called ‘Peepo’ who ironically used to sing ‘Celtic know all about their troubles.’ In their hearts they know however that Celtic’s darkest days were never as dark as the dustbin of history they were consigned to.
As Brian Dempsey said one memorable night outside Celtic Park when Fergus McCann took control of the club… ‘The game is over, the Rebels have won.’ How right he was.