Some of us recall the 1990s, when Rangers would visit Celtic Park (or once memorably at Hampden) late in the season, and we would manage a meaningless win. It was all we had to sustain ourselves over the summer while we hoped that next season would be ours.
Rangers fans shrugged after these games, untroubled, clear in the knowledge that next season would almost certainly mean more of the same. Newco now aspire to be in the position Celtic occupied back then – hoping to win even a meaningless game.
They have lots on their side. Celtic are without fans and missing two of their most important players, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Alistair Johnston. Kyogo suffered a knock last week and you can bet the mortgage he will endure more off the ball elbows in the face, dangerous tackles and thumps on his vulnerable shoulder tomorrow.
Jota, Aaron Mooy, Reo Hatate and Liel Abada are at various stages of returning to full fitness, while the central defensive partnership of Carl Starfelt and Yuki Kobayashi is, to put it mildly, yet to form. It could be years before Newco have a better chance of beating Celtic.
Challenges like this is why Ange Postecoglou is here. He’s not at Celtic because he gets his kicks out of beating Ross County, it is about dealing with disruptive events, hostile environments and technical demands, something he and his players will get buckets of at Ibrox tomorrow.
If you wanted the role of either manager, you would want to be Ange. Nothing to lose, hampered all around, with faith in a system that delivers reliably for you. Opposite him is ‘Mick’ Beale. Mick has faced Celtic four times this season, drawing the first then losing three on the bounce. There will be no hiding place for him tomorrow. Win in front of 50,000 of your own fans, or send them all off for the summer thinking you just don’t have what it takes and be ruthlessly turn on, like they did that nice guy who got them to a European final last year.
It will be a difficult game for Celtic. Despite being perennial losers, Newco have done well recently against us in the middle of the park. They will target Kobayashi – how he settles could have a huge impact on the outcome. Referees’ refusal to award a penalty against Newco is reaching embarrassing levels. A meaningless game against Celtic would the perfect retort – ‘See, we’re not biased.’ Get into their box and test this theory.
Look back this afternoon, we will have a video with Peter Ledwige, who spoke to us ahead of joining the Road to Seville cyclists. The group are currently in the hills of northern Spain, raising funds for the Celtic FC Foundation.