Well that time has come around again, friends, the time when I lick my lips in anticipation as I think of the carnage we’ve witnessed over the years and wonder at the bloodbath that is about to unfold. This is what it’s all about. “Bring it on,” I want to shout.
I’ve got it bad. This country is, again, the Zombie Nation.
I just can’t get enough. The draw is huge. It’s addictive. I am not a fan. I am a devotee.
Over the years, what we’ve witnessed has been bloody, it has been brutal, it has occasionally been insane, but it has never been less than compelling.
Few can deny, far less resist, the deadly attraction of it.
The media hype is extensive, especially in the lead up. Every development is scrutinised in the aftermath. Like any great drama, heroes rise … and fall. And talk about audience participation … nothing else gets me out of my seat, or biting my nails, or has me putting my hands across my eyes, too scared to watch. Like I said, I’ve got it bad.
The Walking Dead really is a fantastic television show ….
The way they schedule it bugs me. Between seasons it’s as brutal as waiting for the football to start up again. The week between episodes is excruciating, and that’s to say nothing for this crazy mid-season break they do now, splitting a series in two parts.
Now that the season is airing I am recording them, without watching, so I can watch a batch of them in one sitting. It’s not perfect, but it does cut out that dreadful wait between weeks somewhat.
It’s like any time you binge on something though … as Bon Jovi says, “Too much of a good thing is like getting high and coming down …”
Too much of a bad thing has the same effect, and there’s a zombie apocalypse I am not looking forward to as much.
Some people say they’ve been waiting for this one for years, but they’ve got their shows mixed up I think. Frankly, I’ve already had enough of it, but I do recognise it for what it is; something none of us is yet to experience.
Let’s be clear; regardless of those people talking about the “return” of the Celtic – Rangers tie (they call it something else, but it’s a phrase I absolutely refuse to use in any context, even to mock it) what the League Cup semi-final draw has thrown up is actually no such thing.
This is not some kind of perverse reunion. It is more akin to a Close Encounter of the Third Kind. It’s an alien event.
The entity some call Rangers no longer exists and it’s why I steadfastly refer to them on this blog as Sevco. A lot of their fans don’t accept this, and the media certainly does not.
Now, I understand, to an extent, where the supporters are coming from. The survival, or not, of a corporate shell does not compromise their identity as fans. If the football club they are watching is followed by the same people, with the same cultural baggage, playing out of the same stadium, with the same colours then why should they not regard it as the same?
And continuation of history? What is that anyway, except notations in a book? If history is about memories, about things passed down from father to son, then how the Hell can it die?
Is history valid because of something written in books? How much of the history we think we know – because of books – is real, and how much is biased and based on that old concept that it’s “written by the winners”?
Let’s take a contemporary example of how “history” isn’t what it seems.
The media would have you believe Jim Murphy was one of the stars who “won” the recent referendum. They’d have you believe that he showed enormous courage out on the streets.
But we know his tour wasn’t about “the union” but a self-serving PR fest.
We know that the early part of his “100 Days On An Irn-Bru Crate” were marked by low turnout and general indifference.
We know he stoked anger to try and draw a crowd, and did enough that someone threw an egg … and we know that chased him off the streets for days and that he only returned when he was hidden behind a Praetorian Guard of activists and minders.
What price history then? What’s it actually worth?
I’ve long argued that it does not actually matter whether the history of Rangers continues or not, or whether the fans accept the facts of liquidation or simply choose not to. The consequences for them were the same one way or the other, and if a football club is an ideal then theirs lives as it ever did.
If we disregard what’s in the books, Rangers history only exists in only two places; in the memories of people who want to connect the glories of yesterday to the ignominy of today and in the minds of the merchandising wing of Sports Direct, who want to maintain it so they can milk it for every penny they can squeeze from it and those who want to keep it alive.
Irony. Ain’t it a bitch?
Nevertheless, my own lack of concern does not mean I am going to sit here and deny reality. They died, and last week no less a man than their own intellectual power-house Donald Findlay risked the ire of the fans when he pointed that out and said the club he once knew is gone and this new one ought to get itself a new identity instead of, as I once put it, walking around wearing mother’s clothes and sitting in her chair by the window.
Sevco Rangers are the Norman Bates of football clubs. It is the walking, upright, embodiment of something that died. As long as it wears those colours, plays out of that stadium and tries to appropriate the history then it will have to be considered as a zombie institution.
There is no Rangers, so no Celtic – Rangers game to “return” to.
If we wanted to watch another one of those the word we would use is “resurrect”, which is much more applicable to this situation.
Which brings me to the point of the piece. Who in the Hell would want to resurrect this anyway?
That’s a serious question, by the way. Who in God’s name would want that fixture back?
Oh I know if you listen to the radio phone in’s (which I do occasional for a glimpse into the mouth of madness) and follow their tabloid equivalents you realise that there have to be people out there who haven’t enjoyed their football since this fixture went by the boards … but I suspect, strongly, that they are in the minority.
If I’m being honest, in purely football terms I have nothing against facing the club that plays out of the Bates Motel. I really don’t. Had they accepted the reality of what they were, and reformed with a new identity, as Donald Findlay has suggested, then I would have been as delighted to play them, and beat them, as I would be to play, and beat, anyone else.
In truth, I would still be happy to take them on even with some of their fans clinging to the illusion of life, because with it comes the delusions of grandeur we remember well from the club that died. Bursting that little bubble – shattering it, in fact – would be a sweet thing, and something I am sure I’d enjoy watching, much as I enjoy seeing the zombies in The Walking Dead getting squished.
But you know what? When I ponder what’s about to happen in January, I don’t feel any of the positive emotions that you are supposed to feel over something enjoyable, because already we’re drowning in the acid rain of hype.
The media are already salivating like Pavlov’s dogs, writing irrational nonsense about how this game would fill the Maracanã ten times over. Really?
Are we in the realms of reality here, far less seriousness?
A game between a Celtic team still trying to come to grips with a new coach and playing system, against a second tier NewCo with a third rate manager …. This is a match that will draw a global TV audience and fill one of the great arenas of football?
Yet even that stuff I can handle, much as I would handle it if Celtic had gotten to the Champions League and drawn one of the English clubs, and we had to read all the usual crap about The Battle of the Britain.
No, when it comes down to it it’s not the Survival Myth, as perpetuated by the fans, that really bothers me here.
It is the press and their reaction to all this stuff.
On one hand, it’s natural enough, I suppose. The Scottish sports media has always gotten a rise out of being able to tell their European counterparts that they were frequent attenders at what they deemed one of the biggest games in world football.
It was – and it remains – their only claim to fame.
Instead of accepting that it’s over, instead of accepting that they are now part of the general herd not representing the media of a major league, they cling to their own ideas of superiority and being special.
Their hype is poisonous though. Because of that, I am not keen on playing Sevco. I am not looking forward to that game, and I wish to God we did not have to go through it.
The way this match is covered reflects badly on things that I love; on Celtic, on Glasgow, on Scotland and on football itself. Wrapped up in all the baggage the press and others are already piling on top of it, it is an ugly spectacle.
I thoroughly resent the suggestion, proposed by some, that this is something I ought to have missed.
This is a tie whose history and hype has been built on lies, and I am afraid I cannot put it more bluntly than that.
The fixture has been described in many circles as a clash between the Catholic and Protestant halves of Glasgow, but this is, and it has always been, utter cobblers. I started resenting it years ago. It makes us look backward and somewhat insane.
Celtic has always drawn its support from across the community and many different cultures, and if Ibrox was once a place where you could hear “Up to your knees in fenian blood” that was because a number of its adherents still clung to centuries old cultural “norms” which are ridiculous when one looks at the backgrounds of some of the heroes of the club in the last 20 years.
The truth is, many of the fans, on both sides, realise this and have no further use for religion.
I’ll give you an example. A 2003 survey suggested that only 60% of Rangers fans would have self-defined as Protestant, and of that number I’d suggest less than half defined their lives and beliefs and outlook that way.
Scotland is no longer a divided country nor Glasgow a divided city in the way some have suggested, not any longer, and perhaps not for a long time.
What’s escaped these people’s attention is that in this country, in this city, people work together, live together, sleep together and even vote together now without their football allegiances getting in the way.
It is nonsense to suggest that rivers of hate course through these lands. There are haters, yes, but this gives them a greater profile than they deserve. This tie, and the way it is covered, panders to those people.
It’s not limited to football either.
Two national news broadcasters have suggested any difficult Jim Murphy experiences in being elected Labour leader and then First Minister might not be his Blairite background and personal political ideals but the fact that he is a Roman Catholic.
Seriously. Sky News actually wrote that, in an editorial, on the day he declared his bid for the leadership.
For God’s sake. There are a thousand reasons why this guy would be the worst possible choice for Labour, and Scotland, and there are about two millions reasons not to give him, or any party he leads, the time of day far less a vote … but that is not one of them.
We have given the haters in our society far too much airtime as it is, and I loathe the media coverage this clash is getting because they are portraying it in such a way that it’s already become a vast advertising board for the prejudices of a very few people and their warped ideas.
I understand how this has happened too, and it’s why I dreaded the two teams coming out of the hat.
It’s why I’d be glad if this game never happened again.
The truth is, the hype surrounding it has nowhere else to go but the gutter.
One of the teams that made up this rivalry no longer exists, in any shape or form, even if you are one of those who accept the Survival Myth.
Rangers were annihilated by Craig Whyte. There are some who look at the shambling ruin dressed in the tattered remnants of a blue jersey, reeking of the grave, and have somehow convinced themselves that “Rangers won” because a version of them has “survived.”
What has emerged from the maggot squirming pit is a pale, dismal shadow of the club we grew up to think of as our main rival. Even if it were not being picked apart by the buzzards that recognise it for a walking corpse, it would be a basket case organisation permanently flirting with disaster because those running it refuse to engage with financial reality.
The hacks say crap like “Scotland needs a strong Rangers.” The rational appears to revolve around their ability to provide “competition.”
All the NewCo will provide is “comedy.” They are a lumbering wreck, run by spivs and incompetents, with a team on the park that is a mixture of SPL rejects, old guard past the sell-by date and a few youth players who may or may not make it, but certainly won’t hang around at Ibrox long enough for the majority of their fans to find out.
There is no spectacle here, just a circus freak show. The days when the clubs were filled with top class footballers is gone, and for Sevco anyway that isn’t coming back, so there’s not much chance of us seeing a match up with two sides playing sexy football.
The media can try and turn this into a proper fight if they like, but the Ibrox club is not in the heavyweight division any longer and should be dispatched easily.
They can fantasise about Ashley’s billions or Dave King’s stolen millions all they want … but that won’t hand Ally the transfer war chest he needs to give him the spending ratio of 10-1 he’s comfortable with, and transform them into the contenders they dream about being.
With the “competition” factor removed, what exactly do the media have to hype this game but hate?
I understand it, but I do not like it.
I think the hate is as overblown as everything else, but it has the horrendous effect of giving a minority in this country a megaphone to express their distorted views.
The media’s greatest crime is not in how they are going to use the language of war to describe a football match though. Their real plumbing of the depths will come later, if the game explodes or off-field issues give them something to write headlines about.
Then we’ll see them refer to the “shame” of it. Of how the country doesn’t need the very thing they’ve told us it has to have. They will refer to the “ugly side” of our national sport, and all of this with a mock piety that will be as infuriating as it is dishonest. For the next two months I want to forget all about it. I suspect they won’t let me.
No matter what these people say, Scottish football does not need this appalling game. The hype surrounding it devalues our sport, our country, my city and even my own club, Celtic, who’s CEO has talked about how much money we have lost without Bates Motel FC in our league and appears to be looking forward to having them back.
I want nothing to do with this phony rivalry. The majority of my club’s fans want nothing to do with it. I suspect a number of Sevco’s supporters are sick and tired of it too.
Rivalry does not have to be about hate. There was a chance, when Sevco Rangers was born, for all this to be brought to a halt, and for the new club to emerge as a new entity, stripped of all the nonsense. The hacks would never have let it happen.
Their pushing of the Survival Myth, like a drug, is all about giving them headlines and generating hate. Not satisfied with the Survival Myth, they are whipping up the Victim Myth again, and this is the most dangerous of all, and an open invitation to lunatics to act according to type.
The media would rather grow that hate then help to kill it. That tells us everything about who they are.
In the Book of the Dead, of the ancient Egyptians, they were the first civilisation to envision the destination of the damned as being an enormous Lake of Fire. Theirs may have been the genesis of the one referred to in The Book of Revelations, the one into which Satan is cast
Our media damned itself long ago, reduced to irrelevance by the Bampots and outclassed by the citizen journalists who are now more trusted than the hacks.
Their talking down of Scottish football has reached its nadir in the last few days, as they grab with both hands this toxic notion that the whole game here has been on hold for two and a half years, this horrible conceit that it revolves around a rivalry built on the unhealthy foundation of a mutual loathing.
Nothing – not beating Rangers, not beating Sevco – has ever, or will ever, give me quite so much satisfaction as watching these people drown in their own dribblings.
Their own Hell is to wallow in that which they have created; the Lake of Slabbers.
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