The Old Firm: History And Tradition

Written by on December 26, 2017

Ahead of yet another Old Firm encounter at the weekend we give you a potted history of Scotland’s greatest football rivals. Some might argue it is the biggest derby game in the UK if not Europe!

The Old Firm is the collective name for the Scottish football clubs Celtic and Rangers, the Glasgow giants are traditionally the first teams football fans think of in other parts of the world when the subject of Scottish domestic football arises. Love them or hate them you cannot ignore them as they still take the majority of the headlines in the Scottish sporting press.

The rivalry between the two clubs has become deeply embedded in Scottish culture and has contributed to the political, social and religious debate in Scotland and also beyond, especially in neighbouring Northern Ireland. As a result, the fixture was recognised as having enduring appeal.

The two clubs are the most successful in Scotland, between them having won 102 Scottish League championships (Rangers with 54 and Celtic with 48), 70 Scottish Cups and 44 Scottish League Cups. Interruptions to their ascendancy have occurred infrequently, most recently with the challenge of the ‘ New Firm ‘ of Aberdeen and Dundee United in the first half of the 1980s [] a press term which fans of both clubs never really took to ]. Since the 1985–86 season one half of the Old Firm has won the Scottish League consistently and from the 2006–07 season to the 2011–12 season, both clubs finished in the top two places.

Rangers and Celtic have played each other 409 times in major competitions: Rangers have won 159 matches, Celtic 152 matches and 98 ended in a draw.

The clubs have large fan bases around Glasgow but also supporters clubs in most towns throughout Scotland and Northern Ireland and in many cities around the world. The presence of Rangers and Celtic had been estimated to be worth £120 million to the Scottish economy.

The origin of the term is unclear but may derive from the two clubs’ initial match in which the commentators referred to the teams as “like two old, firm friends”, or alternatively may stem from a satirical cartoon published in a magazine prior to the 1904 Scottish Cup Final between the sides, depicting an elderly man with a sandwich board reading “Patronise The Old Firm: Rangers, Celtic Ltd”, highlighting the mutual commercial benefits of their meetings. The name may also be a reference to these two teams being among the original 11 members of the Scottish Football League formed in 1890.

The Old Firm were also the first two clubs from Scotland to win European club trophies and were also the last two from Scotland to appear in Euro club finals.

Celtic shocked Inter Milan 2-1 to take the European Cup in 1967 in Lisbon while Rangers secured the now defunct Cup Winners Cup five years later in Barcelona defeating Moscow Dynamo 3-2.

In 2003 Celtic lost the UEFA Cup [ now Europa League ] final 3-2 to Porto while Rangers perished at the hands of Zenit St Petersburg 2-0 in the 2008 UEFA Cup final.

Rangers also lost two other European finals to Fiorentina and Bayern Munich respectively in the 1960’s while Celtic failed to make it two European Cups in three years when they lost to Dutch side Feyenoord in the 1970 European Cup final by two goals to one in Milan.

While Celtic have failed to match their European Cup pedigree of the 60’s and 70’s in the revamped tournament [ now The Champions League ] they still regularly fly the flag for the Scottish Premiership in the top Euro club tournament while Rangers almost made the final of the very first Champions League in season 1992/3, losing out to eventual winners Marseille, who knocked the Ibrox club out in the match that would decide whether the team that played AC Milan in the final would come from from Scotland or France.

Both clubs took huge supports to Spain and England respectively for the 2003 and 2008 UEFA Cup finals and there has long been an argument that both sides of the Old Firm should be included in the English Premier League due to the cash they could generate through matches against the elite sides south of the border.

In Scotland v England club match ups in Europe Celtic most notably overcame First Division Champions Leeds Utd 3-1 on aggregate in the semi final of the European Cup in 1970 with an amazing crowd of 134,000 watching the second leg at Hampden. The press south of the border gave Jock Stein’s men little hope against Don Revie’s powerful Yorkshire outfit but the Glasgow hoops took the lead within 45 seconds at Elland Road and won 1-0 before following that result up by coming back from 1-0 down to win 2-1 in the second game.

Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool were also swept aside by the bhoys in the run to the 2003 UEFA Cup final.

Rangers also beat a title winning Leeds Utd side home and away [ both times the Gers won 2-1 ] in the Champions League run of 1992/93.

In the 1960’s the Gers overcame the then English champions Wolves in yet another match where the English side were predicted to prevail against their Scottish counterparts.

While regular cross border encounters may be a long time off for the Old Firm there is no doubt that many of their supporters would love to see regular jousting with the big London and Liverpool clubs as well as Man U, Man City and the rest.

Celtic start the weekend Old Firm encounter 11 points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership and it could be argued that the gulf between the Glasgow sides fortunes has never been bigger going into an Old Firm league fixture.

The game Kicks Off at Noon.


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