After last weekend’s disappointment, the players need to put a good, solid, performance. Neil Lennon will welcome the opportunity to dispel any regrets as he faces Ally McCoist for the third time as manager.
Celtic fell apart at Ibrox on their visit in September. A halftime lead evaporated, we lost four goals as Rangers hit the woodwork and missed other glorious chances. It was as complete a capitulation as I remember from a Celtic team.
You can forget any nonsense you hear about this being a young Rangers team, man-for-man they are certain to be older than the (genuinely) young Celtic team they will face. You can also write-off recent poor results; on Sunday they will elbow, kick, push, elbow, block, chase and elbow in an attempt to put our key players off their game or provoke retaliation from our easily provoked’.
Those given the honour to wear a Celtic shirt on Sunday must rampage around Ibrox as though they owned the very tuft they tread upon, as though they were taxpayers legitimately claiming their dues. Each green blade of grass is theirs, secured court order as custodians of Rangers have failed to pass on monies collected that should now be paying for health, education and other services.
Only once in history have we won the league at Ibrox, in May 1967, coincidentally a few hours after I was born. Jimmy Johnstone scored both Celtic’s goals, the second, a thundering left foot strike into the top corner.
The first time I met Jimmy I told him I was born that day and he talked me through the game, which he remembered well. The Ibrox pitch was wet and heavy, as was the ball. Jimmy found the going tough and tired in the second half, all the players did. With 16 minutes remaining Jimmy peeled off his marker to collect the ball from a throw-in. He ran in-field until he could sense space closing in on him. There was one defender at his back and one in front of him, although he told me he felt they were zoning-in from all angles.
His shot from the edge of the D passed inches below the crossbar into the net. Jimmy told me, “My legs were empty, I couldn’t have run any further so just hit [the ball]as hard as I could”.
Typical Jinky understatement. It was an exquisite strike, born of not just outstanding technique on his weaker foot, but from having oceans of reserve to plunder when everyone else is done. This was the most beautiful goal crafted from sheer effort and the will to win.
I wish he was there on Sunday.